- Zhang dedicates her life to help villages girls have a better life.
- Zhang refuses a student's donation for being a housewife.
- Voices call for more attention to housewives.
In 1996, Zhang Guimei applied to transfer herself to teach at a school in a remote village, Huaping, after her husband passed away of cancer. One year later, she was diagnosed with uterine fibroids. Seeing the conditions in which local female students were living, she decided to dedicate the rest of her life to help these girls to “fly out of the mountains and never come back.” In 2008, after years of extreme hard work and with the help of local government, Huaping Female High School (HFHS) was founded, the first free female high school in China.
Since its foundation, HFHS has changed the fate of over 1,800 female students from nearby poor villages. It is achieved by a strict timetable: all the students need to wake up at 5 am and can’t sleep until midnight. Zhang knows this is the only way for these girls to get a decent score when competing with students from cities. In 2020, Zhang was elected National Outstanding Teacher by the Ministry of Education of PRC. Many call her China’s Mother Teresa.
During the past few days, Zhang trended on Weibo and Zhihu again, this time due to her opinions over full-time housewives. It started when a former student came back to HFHS with her husband to visit Zhang and wanted to donate. Knowing that the student is now a full-time housewife, Zhang got angry and kicked them out. In an interview, she explained that she was extremely disappointed.
“We overcame all the difficulties to make sure that she could start a new life in the cities instead of getting married at 18, and now she chooses to become a housewife. Women should always have their own income, instead of a dependent of their husband. After years at home, you fall behind the society. Soon you’ll lose common language with your husband. What happens if the husband has a mistress out there? Never rely on a man.”
Her remarks have sparked a huge discussion online. Many think that although well-educated housewives might be a waste of education resources, being a housewife is a personal choice after all, and Zhang shouldn’t be so extreme about it.
Others argue that what Zhang hates is not females being housewives in general, but only her students being so. These girls from remote villages can’t afford to lose. Even though the high school is free, many parents of these girls still want them to stop studies and get married early.
Zhang has been personally visiting and begging these families to allow their kids to continue. Becoming a housewife is a risk that she doesn’t want her student to take. A post with over 50,000 upvotes on Zhihu says that Zhang treats her students like her own daughters. She’s just being a mother, afraid of her daughters being mistreated and wanting them to lead a better life. Some voices also call for the society and the government to pay more attention to full-time housewives, who need more understanding and, more importantly, more security.