For the past forty years, Zhang Guimei has loyally remained in her teaching position in an impoverished mountainous region of west Yunnan province. Her loyalty was fed by her determination to “teach ‘til her last breath”.
Her perseverance meant that in 2008, after five years of arduous fund-raising efforts, Zhang managed to open China’s first fee-free girl’s high school: her aim was to break the vicious cycle of girls being brought up with no education, because their mothers themselves had never been educated. Zhang took up residence in one of the school dormitories when it opened, to ensure that all her protégés maintained their faith and enthusiasm for learning, which she saw as being the only path open to them to change their fate.
Zhang’s devotion did not stop there: she also donated the bulk of her wages, bonuses and gifts she had herself received for her to be able to treat her own illness, to the school, in the hope of providing fair and quality education to the most deprived children in the school.