“I graduated in this school’s 2008 class with a degree in agricultural facilities technology, so I have also benefitted from open education. I enrolled once more in the spring 2015 term to study in the undergraduate administration management programme. Over the next three or more years I will learn, together with you, once again to experience the pleasure brought through open education under all the tutors’guidance. Short as the time for study in the school is, our time studying will be long. I hope the RTVU’s small courier station will be impressed with your spectacular achievements and the beautiful memories created, life milestones written on our hearts……”

This was from the speech by Xu Zhuanyun, student representative of Xiaonan Radio and TV University (RTVU), at the opening ceremony of the spring 2015 term on a Saturday morning at the end of April. Now, Xu works as a civil servant in the national government in Zhuzhan Township, Xiaonan District, Xiaogan, Hubei Province. No one would imagine him being among the“muddy leg” (an offensive slang to call a farmer) village cadre before 2014. Listening to his speech, I couldn’t help thinking of his junior college study in the “One College Student Per Village”programme. I, as his class tutor, had a great sense of achievement in my heart, and I felt both relieved and proud.

 “Muddy legs” enter the university

It was National Day 2008. With the recommendation of the village CPC branches, and through township review and entrance examination formalities, Xu Zhuanyun and 130 other new students became junior college students in the “One College Student Per Village”programme at the Xiaonan Branch of China Central Radio and TV University (CCRTVU), where they majored in agricultural facilities technology, animal husbandry and veterinary medicine, and other specialties. These “muddy legs” at the university campus, were curious about every new thing. They longed to acquire specialized knowledge and learn skills that would enable them to acquire wealth. But with only a high school education, they had never seen computers; they didn’t know how to use a mouse, let alone how to learn online. Since we were entrusted by the upper level organizational departments and provincial RTVU to train “village officials” for the district, we led them in learning and mastering new technology and information, as well as new skills that would enable them to become rich. By taking into consideration their knowledge level and work history, the school arranged for face-to-face tutorial courses, selecting and sending well qualified tutors to guide them. I began with the ABCs of computer knowledge, focused on studying well in the three common courses of Computer Application Technology, Rural Policy Regulations, and Practical Writing, and also taught Practical Writing. I don’t remember how many weekends I spent helping students learn how to work on computers and teaching information technology alongside their computer tutor. Step by step, the students learned how to use computers. They mastered how to produce word documents, make exchanges with tutors and students using QQ, search for current affairs and information, and autonomously study online specialized courses on raising animals and growing plants. The students and full-time tutors of specialized courses in our school were busy studying hard, helping each other, making exchanges, participating in discussions, and working tirelessly in class, at training bases, in learning teams at the townships, and in the field.

The cultivation of village officials by providing them a university education enables not only their mastery of theoretical knowledge, but also improves their abilities in writing, verbal communication, and community tasks. As such, I organized a speech contest with the theme “To Learn Real Abilities Well for a Fulfilling Life in a New Rural Area” in the 2008 “One College Student Per Village” class of Xiaogan RTVU. I gave each student careful guidance, from encouragement in joining the contest to guidance in topic selection, speech revision, language organization, dress appearance, and stage performance style. In the end, sixteen of the participants came out with third prize and above. Xu Zhuanyun, an honest and good-natured man of few words, expressed his hopes for the development of his hometown with great passion and charm in his speech Regretless in the Development of Homeland. After learning through common and specialized courses, students had a better understanding of rural policies and regulations, improved their writing ability, and gradually enhanced their ability to work in rural areas. Some village Party secretaries and cadres were no longer as harsh or aggressive as before, and they became more proficient in connecting with villagers, who in turn became more sincerely involved. Yuan Shaomin, an agricultural facilities technology major, was Party Secretary of Yuanhu Village, Dougang Township in Xiaonan District. He was the first man in our district to apply farm machinery technology to plough, sow, transplant, and harvest entirely by machine. Thus, his village became the first “agricultural mechanization demonstration area” in Xiaogan City. He also led the township in land use rights circulation so that the land was collectively cultivated by a few master farmers proficient in technology, management, and administration. In the meantime, the freed up labourers could go to make money in the northeastern and southeastern areas. Under his unwavering leadership, the previously backward village,considered a muddy wasteland and poverty-stricken area, was developed into a demonstration village of the rural area of Hubei. The “Yuan Shaomin 1+X” work method he created was reported in the column “the most beautiful community level cadres” of  CCTV’s Xinwen Lianbo (news broadcast) in May 2015. His deeds were also published in the People’s Daily in the report Yuan Shaomin Always Has a Way Out.

Everyone shows their own wisdom and skills on the path to becoming rich

A close friendship was developed between myself and the “One College Student Per Village”programme participants over a period of more than two years, and I have remained in close contact with them to this today. All of them are willing to share with me their rural community work achievements and talk about their difficulties. Most of the students have applied lessons learned in the RTVU class in new development of rural areas. Each time I receive their phone call for help, I quickly contact external teachers, including Professor Gao Heping, Professor Yang Mingsheng, Professor Li Jianhua, and other experts from the College of Life Sciences at Hubei Engineering University. They then go to the rice fields, tea farms, fish ponds, or nursery stock bases to help the learners diagnose problems.

 “Is that Mr. Tian? Why do some fish in my pond have a yellowish blood-coloured mucus flowing out of their bellies? What can I do?” This was a phone call I received from Xu Zhuanyun on an early summer day in 2011. “Don’t worry, please give me more details,”I responded. After listening to him, I quickly got in touch with Professor Yang Mingsheng, who was employed in teaching at another school. He drove over 15 kilometers to Xu Zhuanyun’s fish pond, where he determined,“This is fish enteritidis,whose major pathogenic bacteria are aeromonas punctata, located in the intestinal tract. It is also called bacterial enteritis,and is mainly caused by unclean water and bait.” After careful observation of the water quality, and several carassius auratus and parabramis pekinensis, Mr. Yang prescribed a medicine for the disease. Following the prescription, Xu Zhuanyun sterilized the pond water and administered the medicine. The entire pond of fish was saved. “Book theory alone won’t work, and genuine knowledge comes from practice, after all,” said a deeply moved Xu Zhuanyun. After that incident, Xu often watched online videos of the RTVU’s specialized teaching material Special Breeding Technology. He gradually developed more experience in fish farming in this way, soon doubling the average unit of fish yield from his fish pond over the years prior. Xu Zhuanyun was not the only one who benefited from and became rich by studying at the RTVU. Liu Dajun and Liang Fuyun of Zhuhu Farm planted seedlings and flowers by integrating the planting technology they had learned with the characteristics of the local soil. They sold their products to customers online and business flourished. Huang Shengbo from Yangdian Township and Li Molian from Xihe Township improved the tea varieties and soil quality on their tea farms in their hometown after graduation, and both were rewarded with thriving tea production and sales.

Village officials become township officials

In early autumn 2013, the Organization Department of the CPC Xiaonan District Committee of Xiaogan City decided to administer the public exam to excellent village cadres as part of a recruitment process to become the township’s civil servants. Xu Zhuanyun spent several sleepless nights after he heard the news and phoned to ask for my opinion. I said to him, “Sign up as soon as possible. I believe you have the ability. Why not go and try?” I knew Xu Zhuanyun well after these years of contact. He was a master of words. In addition, he had the advantage of age, had received an RTVU junior college education, and had about ten years of community level work experience as a major village official. I was convinced he could pass the examination. Over the next three months, I helped him search the Internet and download study materials on public examinations, and accompanied him to look through and buy printed teaching materials related to the examination. We thought hard and analyzed the possible questions on the examination through repeated deliberation. In the end, Zhuanyun’s mastery of policies and specialized theoretical knowledge earned him qualifying scores on his written examination and interview. “Mr. Tian, I was recruited to work as a civil servant in Zhuzhan Township, and investigations will soon be carried out by the Bureau of Human Resources and Social Securities,as well as the Government”Zhuanyun gave me the excellent news over a telephone call on May Day 2014. At that moment, I became as excited as if I myself had been recruited. I learned that some of the other students in the 2007 and 2008 “One College Student Per Village”classes were admitted to civil service as well. They were Zhang Zhengyi, Huang Dan, Zhang Lihui, Wang Zengguang, and others.

 “I am here to enroll in the RTVU’s administration management undergraduate programme -so are they” Xu Zhuangyun, a civil servant in the township’s government, came back to study at Xiaonan RTVU on the sixteenth day of the first month of the Chinese lunar calendar, during the 2015 Spring Festival, with some former junior college classmates. Zhuanyun thus introduced them to the current school leaders. I teased him, “Look at you, guy. Now you have realized the meaning of your name after these past three years of studying at the RTVU. You have really changed your fortune (in Chinese, “Zhuanyun”means to change one’s fortune), doubling the fish pond yields and changing from a village official to a township official.”To which he replied, “It is the RTVU that has changed us. We wish to complete higher level education, both to make up for our lack of knowledge and repay that cultivation to our Alma Mater.” Zhuanyun’s honest and simple words resonated with the entire office staff and all present laughed with joy. I am convinced that Xu Zhuanyun and his classmates will enjoy themselves in the ocean of knowledge at the RTVU, like many other RTVU students, striving towards a greater purpose!

 (This article won third prize in the OUC “My Teaching Story” essay competition.)

By Tian Chuhua, Xiaogan RTVU of Hubei RTVU