'Happy and driven': Teacher in China spends life savings creating a school for disabled

A Chinese man spends his life savings to build a school for disabled children and young adults and helps many find jobs.
PHOTO: South China Morning Post

A schoolmaster from northern China has won praise after he spent his life savings creating a free education system for disabled students.

Liu Aiye, 56, from Hubei province, central China, built a school aimed at helping disabled children receive a free education.

"I used to be a teacher and when I came across disabled students I was very touched after their parents shared how difficult it is to get an education for their children, so I planned to set up a school for them," Liu told Chinese video news site Dami.

Twelve years ago, Liu used all his savings and started offering his free education service. Not only does the school cover meals and accommodation, but also provides special care items like sanitary towels.

In the video report on the school the class is seen packed with children reading and singing, and taking additional lessons on how to make a living by farming.

"The first year, I spent more than 1.2 million yuan (US$178,544) (S$246,654)", Liu said.

"It took a turn for the better in 2014 after I earned more than 200,000 yuan (US$29,758) from the crops we grew on the farmland I bought for the school."

Over the past decade, Liu has supported more than 500 students aged from seven to 30 years old to finish their education, with around 120 going on to find paid jobs.

"I feel very happy, and this has driven me to stick with it," said Liu.

Liu's work has now attracted the public's attention after the news report came out, with many saying it was not right that Liu had to use his savings, and questioned why local authorities did not provide resources for the disabled.

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"If he has run out of money for the school, then how would he solve the continual problems it faces? Can't imagine," said one Weibo user.

Another said: "Shouldn't the authorities take over? Should he keep spending his own savings?"

"Isn't this supposed to be the job of the civil affairs bureau? Do the local authorities have no money?" Another argued.

In 2008, China issued a law on the protection of people with disabilities. It requires counties to offer disabled students free tuition for the first nine years of mandatory education as well as reduce associated school fees for those who are in urgent need.

In addition, scholarships and grants were set up to help poor and disabled students to continue their studies.

The South China Morning Post has requested comment from the Department of Education of Hubei Province but had not received a reply at the time of writing.

This article was first published in South China Morning Post.