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The Teacher

  • A student of the Teacher, Liao Wenmin has been teaching English in the village school since last year.

Translated by DOMINIC LOH
Nanfang Daily

Winners of the "Good Guys of Guangdong" were recently unveiled. Malaysian Chinese Liao Lenian, whose ancestral homeland is in Dapu county of Guangdong province, was among the winners.

On April 22, the Guangdong Province Overseas Chinese Office handed a banner to Liao as a benevolent overseas Cantonese. With reports of Liao's charitable acts get circulated around, more are taking him as a role model in carrying out charitable works for the society.

When the reporter arrived at the corner of Bai Le Road at Changjiao village, Dapu county, what lied ahead was nothing different from the other villages in China, with the exception of the English language chanted by children inside the ancestral temple.

That was the English class initiated by Liao.

These children descended upon the temple from all across the county on motorbikes, bicycles and school buses. According to local residents, a half-kilometre muddy track in the village has now been paved, thanks to the donation by Liao Lenian. With the road now motorable, a dedicated bus route has been made available for students to head straight to Liao's English class.

Liao came to back to his native village to start a free English class after his retirement in Malaysia ten years ago, and this has changed the fates of many school children here.

When we visited the village recently, and were impressed by the fact that many villagers had been influenced by Liao and joined him in charitable works.

Villager Liao Jianhua invited the Malaysian to his house for lunch, and soon everyone else in the village has rushed to host the benevolent teacher's meals..When we walked with Liao in the village, we could feel that he was much respected by the local villagers who simply called him the "Teacher."

A bit over 30 years of age, Liao Anguo reared a total of 57 pigs with the help from Liao Lenian, and sold them for 25,000 yuan. He donated all the proceeds to Liao to set up the English class.

Liao Anguo used to make about five to six thousand yuan a month from a job in town, but had to quit his job because of his brother's illness. After Anguo's brother was diagnosed with an incurable disease, it was Liao Lenian who helped him source out a multitude of information in English to help alleviate his brother's afflictions.

Anguo made up his mind to become someone like Liao Lenian. He said, "I want to continue rearing pigs and hand over the proceeds from the sale of the animals to the Teacher. He has done so much to help the village and I hope I can carry on his work after he has gone back to his country next time."

Liao always tells the villagers, "I'm teaching you for free, and you should do the same to other people in the future."

He believes the more people taking part in this work, the bigger the probability of success.

During summer vacation every year, Liao would try to enlist the help from other teachers, including his acquaintances and own students.

Luo Yun, an elementary school teacher in the village, said, "Ten years ago, villagers would fight and quarrel over trivial things. But not now!"

Student-turned teacher

Liao always quoted stories that would inspire his students to be kind-hearted during his class.

Liao Wenmin started attending Liao's English class since she was nine. Now undergoing internship at a vocational school, she would travel to the Changjiao elementary school about 200 metres away to relieve Liao after her 1-hour class with the Teacher.

Several years ago, Liao would come here every Monday through Thursday to teach two sessions for the elementary school students and nursery kids. And as the enrolment increases, he now has to conduct his classes in the temple, and Liao Wenmin has been handpicked by the Teacher to relieve him at the school.

When we came to the elementary school, the principal guided us to the second floor of the school building and pointed at a relatively small room and said Liao put up there when he first came to the school.

The principal said Liao had lived there for more than a year.

We were also shown some of the old pictures of the Teacher. In one of the classrooms, we saw an organ, props and AV equipment bought by Liao and another oversea Chinese in the village.

Music teacher Luo Yun said Liao also offered to teach music besides English and computing.

Volunteers from Hunan

Su Shen and his wife Liu Cunming, both in their late 40s, were volunteers from the province of Hunan.

When they are not on duty, the couple would sit in the living room surfing the net. On a closer look, we saw that they were enjoying the Ice Age.

"I couldn't even make out the 26 English letters when I first came here last month, and would never watch anything with Chinese subtitles back in Hunan," Liu said shyly.

The couple came to Guangdong by chance. They read about Liao's message on the Internet last March, and felt it unbelievable. So they decided to come and take a look.

They changed four buses to reach Dapu more than a thousand kilometres from home.

He said he wanted to learn English, but Liao put it very crudely, "Sorry, I can't help you. You should have contacted me earlier."

Su said, "Please, I'm sincere. You can check out my ID if you don't believe me."

"I can't read Chinese," Liao replied, sending him back to the guest house in a trishaw.

Su stepped into the temple last April, on a day when Liao was buying paddy seedlings for the villagers. Su sat beside the bench and started learning from scratch this way with two nuns from Meixian for the next 90 days.

Su was totally impressed after living in the village for three months, "Learning English is secondary. What matters most is that I have been moved by what he's done.

"I'm willing to volunteer to assist this 67-year-old man."

So, when he came here again, he brought along his wife, and both of them now double up as volunteers while learning English here.

Other than attending the classes, the couple also volunteered to take care of the younger students, clean up the temple and prepare meals. They also tried to help out a little to lessen Liao's financial burden but were rejected.

"We later learned why he insists not to collect tuition fees from students: to ensure that his genuine teaching philosophies are not disrupted and that he could dismiss any student who are not serious about learning."

"Donations are used for teaching and helping needy students while he himself continues to put on his torn socks."

Role model

Third generation Chinese Malaysian of Hakka ancestry, Liao is one of the 30 million overseas Chinese with ancestral homes in Guangdong province.

When interviewed, head of the Guangdong Overseas Chinese Office Wu Ruicheng said Liao served as a perfect role model for young people for offering assistance to the remote village which was his ancestral hometown.

His assistant Lin Ling said what set Cantonese and other Chinese migrants apart was that they would try their best to return to their ancestral homes and that they valued education a lot. More than half of the 47 billion yuan of donations from overseas Chinese is used on education here.

 

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