Home­work tu­tor in Xin­jiang beloved at age 74

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - FRONT PAGE - By CUI JIA and MAO WEI­HUA in Shule, Xin­jiang

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.

Con­tact the writ­ers at cui­jia@chi­nadaily.com.cn

ZOU HONG / CHINA DAILY

Pan Yu­lian hugs a Uygur stu­dent af­ter class.

ZOU HONG / CHINA DAILY

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.”

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