Zhongdong: The Cave School
Chinese elementary school beneath a rocky overhang.
Guizhou is one of the poorest provinces in China. Water and food shortages due to massive desertification and drought have left the region often struggling to keep its people alive. These shortages have also translated to education, leaving many children without a schooling option.
Despite these government shortcomings, the Miao people in the Southern part of Guizhou have made the best of their situation by opening an elementary school in a cave, aptly named Mid-Cave Primary School. The school was opened in 1984, and at its peak employed 8 teachers who taught 186 students who would otherwise have no education.
Carved into the side of a mountain, the cave is massive and beautifully detailed from centuries of exposure to the elements. Besides simple cave instruction, there are a few man-made structures, including wooden classrooms and a makeshift basketball court for recess.
Despite the sparse interior, going to school in a cave certainly has benefits besides less meatloaf for lunch, and plenty of fresh air. Teachers at the school found the acoustics perfect for choir training, and reflected that biology became much more hands on thanks to the lizards and bats that made the cave their home. A former headmaster also described the school’s environment as perfect for instruction in geology.
Unfortunately, the Chinese closed the school in early 2011, stating that “China is not a society of cavemen.” Considering the benefits seen from cavern education, it disappointed many involved with the school that the government was set on putting a modern foot forward. It will be interesting to see if the government opens a decent school in the area to supplement the loss of Mid-Cave Primary. Having school in a cave is better than giving the children of these villages no education at all.
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