A Pak­istani Stu­dent’s ‘Golden, Happy’ Days in Ru­ral China

Fiji Sun - - WORLD NEWS -

Ab­dul Ghaf­far Shar, a Pak­istani doc­toral stu­dent in China’s North­west Agri­cul­ture and Forestry Univer­sity (NWAFU), was busy help­ing his teach­ers har­vest the wheat in the univer­sity’s ex­per­i­men­tal fields over the past few days.

Wear­ing a straw hat and gloves, Mr Shar, 29, did farm work un­der the hot sun like lo­cal farm­ers in Yan­gling, north­west China’s Shaanxi Prov­ince.

Yan­gling, an agri­cul­tural hi-tech in­dus­trial demon­stra­tion zone in China, is lo­cated about 80km from the start­ing point of the an­cient Silk Road in Xi’an, the pro­vin­cial cap­i­tal.

More than 2000 years ago, Zhang Qian, an im­pe­rial en­voy, set off from Xi’an and trav­eled west­ward on a mis­sion of peace that opened the Silk Road, an over­land route link­ing the East and West. Although he knew lit­tle about Zhang, Mr Shar said he also wants to be an “en­voy” be­tween China and Pak­istan as the two coun­tries deepen co­op­er­a­tion un­der the Belt and Road Ini­tia­tive.

“I am study­ing plant nu­tri­tion sci­ence in China. I hope I can play a role in strength­en­ing the agri­cul­tural tech­nol­ogy ex­change be­tween the two coun­tries un­der the ini­tia­tive,” said Mr Shar.

FIGHT AGAINST COVID-19

Af­ter re­ceiv­ing his bach­e­lor’s de­gree in agri­cul­ture from Sindh Agri­cul­ture Univer­sity in Pak­istan in 2014, Mr Shar de­cided to con­tinue stud­ies in China’s NWAFU.

A new jour­ney started.

Shar learned to speak man­darin and use chop­sticks. He also adapted to Chi­nese food. In order to make more friends, Shar let his teacher give him a Chi­nese name “Jin Le­tian”, which means “golden, hap­pi­ness and sky.”

This win­ter va­ca­tion, Mr Shar did not re­turn to his home­town and spent most of the time on his re­search. How­ever, the COVID-19 epi­demic dis­rupted his plans.

Ac­cord­ing to lo­cal reg­u­la­tions on the preven­tion and con­trol of COVID-19, Mr Shar was re­quired to stay in his dor­mi­tory in Fe­bru­ary.

Dur­ing the stay, teach­ers reg­u­larly de­liv­ered face masks, food, and other daily ne­ces­si­ties to him.

“I think the re­stric­tion is nec­es­sary. Wear­ing fa­cial masks, wash­ing hands fre­quently, not pan­ick­ing, and no gath­er­ings are the ex­pe­ri­ences I cher­ished,” he said. “I also shared my ex­pe­ri­ences with my fam­ily in Pak­istan. In fact, the Chi­nese peo­ple’s sense of sol­i­dar­ity dur­ing the epi­demic im­pressed me a lot,” Mr Shar said.

EM­BRACE BET­TER LIFE

Mr Shar is re­search­ing plant nu­tri­tion for his doc­toral de­gree. In Mr Shar’s opin­ion, Pak­istan is a tra­di­tional agri­cul­tural coun­try and farm­ers use many chem­i­cal fer­til­iz­ers in the fields, which has a neg­a­tive im­pact on soil fer­til­ity and the en­vi­ron­ment.

“I study to im­prove soil fer­til­ity by ad­just­ing trace el­e­ments of farm­lands, which will help in­crease grain yields in my home­town,” he said.

In the past six years, Mr Shar col­lected re­search sam­ples ex­ten­sively from all around the ex­per­i­ment sta­tions in Shaanxi, which also gave him an op­por­tu­nity to ex­pe­ri­ence the devel­op­ment of China’s ru­ral ar­eas.

“A vil­lage that we fre­quented in Sanyuan County had new changes al­most ev­ery year, like newly ren­o­vated houses and wider roads,” he said. Be­sides the daily lessons, he also par­tic­i­pated in lo­cal poverty al­le­vi­a­tion pro­grammes.

Of the 253 for­eign stu­dents in the univer­sity at present, 85 per cent are from coun­tries and re­gions along the Belt and Road, in­clud­ing 79 from Pak­istan.

In De­cem­ber, Mr Shar and other in­ter­na­tional stu­dents at the univer­sity be­came vol­un­teer teach­ers in a pri­mary school in Fang Town. He got the op­por­tu­nity to teach on­line classes to his stu­dents dur­ing the epi­demic.

The Belt and Road Ini­tia­tive has brought the peo­ple of China and Pak­istan closer, said Mr Shar. He said af­ter grad­u­a­tion, he would en­gage in trade in agri­cul­tural prod­ucts be­tween China and Pak­istan.

Ab­dul Ghaf­far Shar (right) and his class­mate con­duct an ex­per­i­ment in China’s North­west Agri­cul­ture and Forestry Univer­sity, north­west China’s Shaanxi Prov­ince.

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