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UPDATED: February 17, 2013 NO. 8 FEBRUARY 21, 2013
Meet Four People Born in the Year of the Snake

Before the 2013 Spring Festival, Beijing Review reporter Ji Jing interviewed four people born in the Year of the Snake, each with their own unique stories representing a different generation. They shared their life experiences during the past 12 years (the Chinese zodiac is based on a 12-year cycle) and their hopes for the future. Although their life trajectories differ, they share one thing in common: When asked whether they possess the indomitable personality of the snake, they all said yes.

Bettering Education for the Children of Fishermen

Gao Yuhong, born 1953

The biggest achievement in Gao Yuhong's life was saving a school on the brink of shutting down.

Back in the early 2000s, the Central Government launched a campaign to merge dispersed village schools in a bid to improve education in rural areas. Gao's school would have closed had it not been for his persistence.

"Our school is beside Gaoyou Lake," said Gao, a village middle school headmaster in Tianchang City, central China's Anhui Province. "Most of the students are fishermen's children. If the school was closed, these children would have to walk a long way to go to class," the 60-year-old says.

In order to prevent the school from shutting down, Gao improved teaching quality by sending his teachers to better schools to learn from the teachers there. He also expanded the number of extra-curricular music and fine arts courses. As the quality of education grew, students from nearby townships have been drawn to Gao's school, increasing enrollment from a few hundred to nearly 1,000. As basic teaching equipment was in short supply, Gao was dogged in his efforts to secure funding from the local government. The school escaped closure.

Brought up in a fishing family, Gao feels an emotional closeness to the children of fishermen. All of his siblings live on a fishing boat, but Gao was the black sheep of his family and chose to attend university instead, eventually becoming a teacher.

"I joined the Communist Party of China in 1975 and the Party taught me to serve the people," Gao says.

Gao was headmaster at the school from 1987 to 2009. He's had four or five offers to leave the school for higher positions but refused all of them.

"I want to do something for the fishermen's children."

"Without a strong will I could not have prevented the school from being closed," Gao responds when asked whether he possessed the indomitable personality of a snake.

Although he could have retired last year, Gao says he'll stay on one more year because he wants to spend more time with the children. So what does Gao plan to do when retirement finally arrives?

"I'll surf the Internet and play cards with my friends."

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