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EXCLUSIVE: Lessons for Life
2016 Hugo Award winner Hao Jingfang speaks to Beijing Review on creative thinking and the supplementary function of private educational organizations in public education
By Li Fangfang | Web Exclusive

Hearing someone cry out “Help! Help!” she walked toward where the voice was coming from, and there it was, a flower lying at death's door.  

This was part of Chenchen's (pseudonym) fantasy story, which she shared with her classmates in a summer camp for creative writing in Dandelion School. The middle school in southwest Beijing's Daxing District is for migrant workers' children. 

The camp was the brainchild of Hao Jingfang, who won the 2016 Hugo Award for Best Novelette for Folding Beijing, a futuristic story about a world scientifically advanced but segregational in its thinking. 

The week-long summer camp was a project run by Tongxing, a charitable educational organization founded this year. It seeks to nurture creativity in children through science and literature classes on the weekend and during school vacations. 

At the camp, students made up their own stories, bolstered by painting and narration after they were shown animation movies to explain how it is done. 

Hao currently works as a policy adviser in China Development Research Foundation, a Beijing-based think tank on public policy issues. Her work gave her access to migrant workers' children in the capital.  

She found that most of the children were born in Beijing. Their literacy level is much higher compared to those left behind by their migrant worker parents and raised in rural areas. "They can speak fluent Mandarin, [have] a broad vision and future dreams [and] do well in class," Hao wrote. 

To do something for these children, she decided to teach creative writing at the summer camp. There will be a similar class for Beijing residents' children as well but that won't be free.  

"All of my personal classes will be free and given exclusively to migrant workers' kids under the Tongxing project," Hao said. 

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