Zhu Jingke works as a math teacher in a Jiangliu primary school in Anhui Province, and has held his position for 35 years, despite having ankylosing spondylitis, a severe back condition. Zhu cannot stand up straight or sleep lying down, but that hasn’t stopped him from traveling 35 kilometers to school each day and teaching a full course load.
Students always set up a special stool for him, which was originally one student’s special gift to the teacher.
“What I fear most is the blackboard,” Zhu says. Because his waist is not straight, writing on the blackboard is extremely difficult, but he still chalks up the bottom of the board.
In 1988, after he has been teaching for 10 years, Zhu felt a dull pain in his waist during a day of teaching. He ignored it for the rest of the semester, but was eventually diagnosed with ankylosing spondylitis, a chronic bone disorder that chiefly affects the spine and pelvis.
After three months of treatment his condition did not seem any better, so Zhu took some painkillers and went back to the school. Since 1988, Zhu has taken painkillers every day to control the pain. “I’ve been sleeping on one side for the past 25 years; if I turn around while I’m sleeping, my back will hurt so badly that sometimes I even tie myself to the bed,” he said.
“It will hurt even more if I just stay at home doing nothing. Teaching can pass the time and it helps me to relieve the pain.” Zhu said, “I know my body won’t keep up for too long, but just let me die on the platform, with a last sight of my students.”