Homework tutor in Xinjiang beloved at age 74
Pan Yulian’s face lit up when 8-year-old Munisar Parmut opened her small hand to reveal a few precious cherries — a gift to a special teacher more than nine times her age. Pan, 74, gave the girl a hug before sending her into the classroom in the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region’s Kashgar prefecture.
Pan has been tutoring children from all ethnic groups in the neighborhood — at no cost — after school hours for 25 years. Despite her low income, she managed to turn a 26-square-meter room in her house on the outskirts of Shule county into a classroom.
Munisar is one of the 2,000 children who have benefited over the years. She has been attending Pan’s classes every day after school, and sometimes on weekends, for about a year.
“Grandma Pan is very strict with our homework and we are all a bit scared of her,” Munisar said. “But I know she wants the best for us. I gave my cherries to her just to let her know that I am grateful.”
Pan, who claims both Han Chinese and Uygur ancestry, had the idea of offering children — mainly those in primary school — free tutoring after noticing that many parents didn’t have time or were otherwise unable to help their children with homework.
As a high school graduate, Pan believed she could do something for those children so they could keep up with their classmates and wouldn’t mix with the wrong crowd.
“I could have made a fortune by being a translator, but the children’s future is more important. For me, their progress and appreciation are the best rewards. It’s something money can’t buy,” Pan said while flipping through a child’s exercise book. She pauses on a page where the child wrote a message: “Grandma Pan I love you and please take care yourself.”
Pan asks the children to be punctual and kind to others. “I want them to know that becoming a good person is more important than getting a good grade,” she said.
Many parents have noticed positive changes in their children after they attended Pan’s classes.
“My son started to greet everyone he met politely, and his grades went up,” said Reyihangul Yassen, 45. Her son Kawusab Ashan, 8, has been receiving tutoring from Pan for a year and a half.
Reyihangul runs a small grocery store with her husband. All parents in the neighborhood know about Pan and trust her, she said. “Sometimes we can only pick up Kawusab from Pan’s after the shop closes at midnight. She never complains and is always very supportive,” Reyihangul said.
“The classroom, which doesn’t have nice desks and chairs like those in my school, is like a second home for me. Grandma Pan truly cares about us,” Kawusab said.
Pan is currently tutoring more than 30 children between age 6 and 11. She knows all their names, what grade they are in and what their parents do.
She also enjoys visits from former students. Many of them have attended and some have graduated from universities.
In July, Abubilajan Wushor, a former student of Pan who is attending the University of South China in Hunan province, returned to Shule during summer vacation. He offered to teach the children English.
“It’s the least I can do. It is great to be in the same classroom with Pan again,” he said.
For Pan, reunions are sweet. “I feel empty without the children. They are a part of my family,” she said.
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Pan Yulian hugs a Uygur student after class.
Pan Yulian talks with schoolchildren in June. While teaching can be tiring, she said, it’s delightful to see the progress of each child. “For me, their progress and appreciation are the best rewards. It’s something money can’t buy.”