To make sure the plastic bottles she and her husband collect at a small waste station in Hunan are fit for recycling, Ms. Liu Jingyi removes the paper labels from each one with her bare hands and painstakingly sorts them by colour. Over the past ten years, she and her husband, Mr Zhu, have recycled 9 million plastic bottles and more than 20 tonnes of plastic material in order to fund their two sons’ university education.
“We are willing to do anything to nurture our children,” Mr Zhu, originally from Jiangxi province but now living in Hengyang city, Hunan, told 21CN, “It is also beneficial to the country for them to be well-educated and respectable individuals.”
Their eldest son has since obtained a PhD, and will be continuing his studies in Germany.
In 2006, Mr Zhu recounted, their younger son was in his third year at the Hunan Normal University College of Commerce suddenly wanted to give up on his studies and make it big by starting a business. “I was so worried when I heard the news, and advised him to continue his studies, so that he can make his fortune afterwards. The ones who really make it big are the people who have the right backgrounds.”
Mr Zhu’s insistence on creating academic opportunities for his children is typical of the mentality that has been deeply ingrained within the Chinese consciousness, especially for those struggling on the edge of the country’s wealth gap. Since the Confucian period, education has been prized as the main route towards social mobility.
“I have forged this path for myself and my family and I am determined to see it through all the way. Sometimes this recycling business is difficult to run, there are occasions when we are strapped for cash, but knowing that I am able to bring my children up well and provide for their future is enough to make me happy.”
By Yuen Sin
[Image via Flickr]