Is 60 years old an age for living an easy retired life at home, or time to set sail for a new dream? The 62 year-old Jiang Xuhuai chose the latter.

When the new semester began at Wuhan Radio and TV University’s (Wuhan RTVU) Open Education School, Jiang Xuhuai, a student in the junior college’s law programme, returned after winter vacation with his wife and son following his lead, becoming his classmates. As a student soon to graduate, he has set his sights on continuing to study the undergraduate law programme this semester.

Working as a peddler after dropping out in his youth

The RTVU is a school for working adults. Upon entering the classroom, the journalist saw few students in the class, and each was obviously older than those in ordinary universities. Even so, an attentive granddaddy like this student caught the eye.

That student is none other than Jiang Xuhuai, aged 62 this year

Jiang Xuhuai was very good at academics in school when he was young. However, he had to begin earning a living on Hanzheng Street (the largest, small commodity wholesale market in Wuhan) after finishing polytechnic school.

Jiang Xuhuai has worked as a shoe wholesaler, a soy bean-milk shop owner, and a clothing store owner. A peddler though he may be, he was always keen on literature. In his spare time, he has read through the four famous Chinese novels (Three Kingdoms, Outlaws of the Marsh, Journey to the West, and A Dream of Red Mansions) over and over again. Among the piles of goods in his home, he still keeps a wall of books.

According to Jiang Xuhuai’s peers, he loves reading, and is good at writing. For years, people have asked him to write petition letters, appeals, and other materials, and he has always been ready to help.
Since the materials he wrote were in a sound, logical order, as well as concise and clear, most of the complaints he helped with delivered results. Many people praised him by saying, “It’s a real shame you are not engaged in legal work.”

A casual remark is always significant to an attentive listener, and Jiang Xuhuai also thought he should study law

One day in late August 2015, Jiang Xuhuai came across a publicity stand for Wuhan RTVU. He had intended to inquire on behalf of his son, who had stayed at home after graduating from a polytechnic school. But, when he learned that there was no age restriction on RTVU students, he simply registered himself.

Breaking through the English barrier by reciting words everyday

Jiang Xuhuai found a great gap between he and his classmates due to his advanced age. “I have questions about explaining terms, and always need to repeat definitions from the textbook. If I interpret things with my own words, I always have a doubt about not being accurate or expressing a meaning in full.” After studying for half a semester, Jiang Xuhuai felt that he had to work very hard.
A poor memory means he must study more than others, late into the night before final examinations. According to the teacher of the specialised Law Science course, it was a real surprise to learn that Jiang Xuhuai passed the examination with a score of 80.

Jiang Xuhuai’s classmates admired his performance. Zeng Xiaoxu, one of his classmates, said with a smile, “With such a good example set by such a classmate, you are embarrassed if you don’t do well in your examinations.”

In addition to memorising legal terms, English is the greatest challenge in his studies.

“Even if not for the graduation certificate, it’s quite necessary to learn English. As a Wuhan citizen, I may meet foreigners.” Jiang Xuhuai bought audio learning materials such as New Concept English and Family Album U.S.A., and he practices listening and speaking English with those audio materials whenever he has time.

Early each morning, he gets up to recite words. At the end of the last term, he succeeded in passing the English exam.

The class tutor, Li Ping, said, “Unlike others who attend the RTVU to kill time, Jiang Xuhuai treats his studies seriously. He works under pressure, spends time and money, and sets specific learning goals for himself. His learning motivation is very touching for the youth.”

Going to school with wife and son

Jiang Xuhuai did well in his studies, so he began to encourage his family to study with him.

Jiang Xuhuai’s wife works at a drug store, and he persuaded her to gain more pharmaceutical knowledge. His son said, with some fear of difficulty, “You take the lead by passing all of the specialised courses, and I will follow you and register!” By the end of last year, Jiang Xuhuai had passed the examinations of every specialised course in his study programme, and his son joined him in studying law to fulfill his promise.

Each time the family of three arrives on campus, they come early and head to their respective classrooms. The Jiangs live on Wusheng Road, which is only a 10 minutes’ walk away from Wuhan RTVU. After two classes in the morning, Jiang Xuhuai will go to the market, go home with vegetables and cook lunch, and return to school in the afternoon. The curriculum requires Jiang Xuhuai attend school an average of three days per week.

Jiang Xuhuai told the journalist that he could leave his business to his relatives, but absolutely had to set aside time for study. After furthering her pharmaceutical knowledge, Jiang Xuhuai’s wife works with greater enthusiasm at the drug store. Sometimes, she shares with the customers some of her learning on preserving one’s health and food therapy, using the pharmaceutical knowledge she has gained.

Since both father and son are studying law, Jiang Xuhuai gives his son his own notes for reference. “My son is somewhat fun-loving. The reason for us father and son to study the same major is to make it easy for me to tutors and encourage him,” said Jiang Xuhuai. He has all kinds of experiences in helping others at court, and he can synthesise his learning for a comprehensive understanding. His son admires him a lot for this. Jiang Xuhuai plans to help his son find a job or to start his own business after he earns a junior college diploma.

Inspirational “Granddaddy” prepares for the “diploma-to-degree programme”

Jiang Xuhuai, who is to graduate next year, plans to go on with his undergraduate education. He had intended to go on with the judicial examination, but it was replaced by the 2016 unified national legal professional qualification examination. With the degree and work experience restrictions, he is not eligible to sit for the examination, which he has regretted for quite some time. He comforts himself by growing more confident in his legal studies, and doesn’t concern himself much with form.

Since there are not many students attending each class, there are times when there is only one student per teacher. Jiang Xuhuai says with a smile that such could be the treatment of aristocrats learning at past imperial courts. This makes him cherish his learning opportunities even more. He usually does his best to learn, and asks teachers questions about material fails to understand in time.

According to Li Ping, Jiang’s teacher, he has not missed a single specialised courses. Moreover, he attends every courses he is interested in, such as Western Economics. Many teachers at the school know Jiang Xuhuai, and sometimes they can’t help deliberately slowing down and raising their voices when they see Jiang sitting at the back of the classroom.

Quite a number of students at the school are around thirty years of age, and they study gain higher degrees and meet the requirements of their jobs. There are few learners like Jiang Xuhuai, a granddaddy of more than 60 years old. He is the oldest student at the school in recent years.

According to school officials, all citizens with an educational background at or above polytechnic or senior middle schools are qualified to get register for learning, and those who finish every course in a given time period, and pass all the examinations for their specialised courses, will earn completion certificates.

By Yan Jingzhen, www.china.org.cn

Source: Chutian Metropolis Daily