Unique class is in ses­sion Shang­hai hos­pi­tal first in city to of­fer reg­u­lar school­ing for young leukemia pa­tients

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - CHINA - By ZHOU WENTING in Shang­hai zhouwent­ing@chi­nadaily.com.cn

A hos­pi­tal ward in Shang­hai that cares for chil­dren with leukemia has be­come the first in the city to pro­vide reg­u­lar classes taught by school­teach­ers.

Ed­u­ca­tion pro­vi­sion at the Chil­dren’s Hos­pi­tal of Shang­hai used to be spo­radic, at best, with classes given only oc­ca­sion­ally by univer­sity stu­dents who were all vol­un­teers.

This was an is­sue be­cause chil­dren un­der­go­ing treat­ment for leukemia have to be hos­pi­tal­ized for weeks at a time over a pe­riod of two to three years.

Many ended up sus­pend­ing their school­ing al­to­gether, which con­cerned Niu Jun, head of the hos­pi­tal’s so­cial work depart­ment.

“It’s im­por­tant that they don’t be­come sep­a­rated from their ed­u­ca­tion or fall be­hind in re­gards to their com­mu­ni­ca­tion and in­ter­per­sonal skills, be­cause when they re­cover they will go back to school,” said the 39-year-old Shang­hai na­tive.

To rem­edy the sit­u­a­tion, Niu in­vited teach­ers from 12 of the city’s kinder­gartens, pri­mary and ju­nior high schools to give les­sons at the hos­pi­tal, start­ing last spring.

They teach the cur­ricu­lum, cov­er­ing sub­jects such as Chi­nese, math­e­mat­ics, so­cial stud­ies, science and art once a week.

The 50 or so chil­dren re­ceiv­ing treat­ment for leukemia are di­vided into three age groups and at­tend class in a room next to their ward, which is fur­nished in much the same way as a school class­room would be.

Sun Zhanli, an 11-year-old who was di­ag­nosed with leukemia a year ago, said he looks for­ward to go­ing to class every week.

“I’d even like to at­tend the classes for younger chil­dren if I could,” said the boy from Lianyun­gang, Jiangsu prov­ince.

Liu Jing, whose 7-year-old daugh­ter is also un­der­go­ing treat­ment, said she ap­pre­ci­ates the hos­pi­tal’s ef­forts in pro­vid­ing for both her child’s med­i­cal needs and psy­cho­log­i­cal de­vel­op­ment.

A sur­vey car­ried out by Niu’s team three years ago found that nearly two in three young leukemia pa­tients have emo­tional prob­lems fol­low­ing their di­ag­no­sis, with their top con­cern be­ing ed­u­ca­tion.

“Such emo­tional change is more ob­vi­ous with older chil­dren, es­pe­cially those who per­formed well aca­dem­i­cally be­fore com­ing to the hos­pi­tal. Many would be­come de­pressed and in­tro­vert,” he said.

“So we es­tab­lished this plat­form for chil­dren to in­ter­act with their peers and have ac­cess to ed­u­ca­tion, which boosts their con­fi­dence.”

To en­cour­age the chil­dren to par­tic­i­pate, they are given a stamp at the end of each class which, if they col­lect enough, can be ex­changed for tick­ets to pop­u­lar at­trac­tions such as Shang­hai Dis­ney­land and Changfeng Park aquar­ium.

Niu, who has an 8-year-old son, said the ex­pe­ri­ence of be­ing a fa­ther had given him fresh in­sight into how to care for chil­dren.

But he has known he wanted to work with young­sters ever since he started work­ing at the hos­pi­tal as a lab tech­ni­cian 19 years ago, he said.

“Most of the time when we see chil­dren in the hos­pi­tal they are cry­ing, but if you play with them or give them gifts, they will show you such pure smiles from the bot­tom of their hearts,” he said.

“I want to see them smile more, and that is why I per­se­vere.”

Niu re­quested a trans­fer to the so­cial work depart­ment 12 years ago and now ded­i­cates his time to im­prov­ing the hos­pi­tal ex­pe­ri­ence of chil­dren and rais­ing funds to help im­pov­er­ished fam­i­lies pay their med­i­cal bills.

He and his team raised more than 10 mil­lion yuan ($1.5 mil­lion) last year, ben­e­fit­ing about 500 young pa­tients from poor fam­i­lies.

ZHOU WENTING / CHINA DAILY

Niu Jun with young leukemia pa­tients in the Chil­dren’s Hos­pi­tal of Shang­hai’s ded­i­cated class­room.

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