In The Field - School Stories - Ban Baohong

Ban Baohong, 19, junior at Gan Quan County Senior High School. Baohang loves sports and has demonstrated her talent in the 100M Dash. She took 1st place in a school event and 3rd place at a county-level event. She also runs a leg in the 400M relay and in the 800M relay. Her favorite university is Xi'an Physical Education University, which is closest to home and her preferred choice as it would allow her to more easily help her family.

Ban lives with her mother, who is mentally retarded, and her grandmother and grandfather, both over 80 years of age. Her grandmother suffers from leg problems, while her grandfather is sick with cerebral thrombosis and is paralyzed on half of his body and requires medicine. She has one younger brother, who dropped out of school in grade six and is now learning how to operate machinery. Until the time her father died, the family had land for her and her brother, but as they were too young, the family was unable to cultivate it and the rights to farm it were taken away. All they have now are marginal,‘reclaimed’ lands, of such poor quality they can only grow low value millet.

To help conserve resources, Ban brings food like bread to steam, tomato and radish from home. As a result, she spends only 10Y ($1.50) per week on food, but she also has had stomach problems since junior high school. Baohong uses and ‘recycles’ other student' textbooks  – she has never purchased her own books, and her clothes are all donated by others. Ban is successful in school in the face of the extreme pressure she feels between school and the needs of her family. She explains that her mother needs assistance with everything, even needing to be told what to eat. The only help they get from any relatives is a little bit of grain from an aunt. Even the family must pay rent of 70Y ($10) just to live in their dirt cave house.

Ban works very hard, getting up daily at 5:00 am and not going to bed until after 11:00 pm. Despite the double burden of studying and doing all she can to take care of her family, Baohang's is focused on her goal of attending a university. Ban has a distant cousin who made it to Yan's an University, the first year of which cost more than 9000Y ($1200). That cousin got some help from the government, and Baohang has been told that, if she is admitted to a university, the government will give her some poverty aid, but she knows a large gap most surely remain. Her strategies of last resort are to borrow what money she can from friends and relatives and to earn money in the two months after the college entrance exam, before university classes start, washing dishes in a restaurant. She expects to earn 200Y/mo, or $26/mo, this way, plus food and dorm.

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