Ban Baohong: Dashing to the Finish Line
Ban Baohong is a 19 year-old junior at Gan Quan County Senior High School. She loves sports and has demonstrated her talent in the 100M Dash, taking 1st place in a school event and 3rd place at a county-level event. Baohang dreams of attending Xi'an Physical Education University, a university close to home that would allow her to continue to help her family.
Baohong lives with her mother, who is intellectually disabled, as well as her grandmother and grandfather, both over the age of 80 and coping with their own health issues. Her grandmother suffers from leg problems, while her grandfather is sick with cerebral thrombosis which has already left half of his body paralyzed and requires expensive medicine. She also has one younger brother, who dropped out of school in sixth grade and is now learning how to operate machinery. Until the time her father died, the family had farm land that would be passed on to Baohong and her brother, unfortunately, after their father passed away the family was unable to maintain and cultivate the land, so the rights to farm were taken away. In return, they were given marginal, ‘reclaimed’ lands, of such poor quality they could only grow low value millet.
To help conserve resources, Baohong buys food like bread, tomatoes and radishes to nourish herself and her family, spending only 10Y ($1.50) per week on food, but her poor diet has led to persistent stomach problems. Nevertheless, Baohong can’t focus on her own needs because she is constantly thinking about her family. She explains that her mother needs assistance with everything, even so much as needing to be told what to eat. The only help they get from any relatives is an occasional small amount of grains from a nearby aunt. Baohong also must make sure their 70Y ($10) rent is paid each month to keep them sheltered, even if it is within dirt walls. To make sure they stay within budget, Baohong uses other students' textbooks to study and wears donated clothes. Despite the constant pressure of providing for her family, she still pushes herself academically and remains successful in school, focused on achieving her goal of attending university.
Baohong has a distant cousin who was accepted to Yan's University, the first year of which costs more than 9000Y ($1200). Her cousin received some financial aid help from the government, and Baohang was told that if she is admitted to a university, the government will likely give the same to her, but she knows a large gap most surely remain. Her last resort is to borrow what money she can from friends and relatives and to work over the two months between taking the college entrance exam and starting university. She hopes to work at a restaurant washing dishes and earning 200Y ($26) a month plus room and board. Although Baohong’s life path is not an easy one, she remains persistent and hopeful that her dream of attending a university will come true so that she can build a better future for herself and her family.