Editor's note: What is the Communist Party of China (CPC)? What is the CPC's role in the new era? The CPC has grown into one of the largest parties in the world in the process of leading Chinese people in seeking liberation and happiness, making China as strong and prosperous as it is today. As the CPC ushers the nation into a new era of development, the last decade has witnessed great achievements in national strength and prosperity, with people's confidence and recognition of this path rising to unprecedentedly high levels.
With more than 96 million members, the CPC will convene its 20th National Congress in the second half of the year, which is expected to guide the country's development and policymaking. Ahead of the meeting, the Global Times is publishing a series of stories to help the world understand the CPC in the new era, through the stories of CPC members working on the frontlines of various fields, as well as through observations made by respected scholars.
This article tells the story of a special education teacher from the Northern part of the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region who devotes herself to the care system for children with disabilities in China's child welfare system, and a kindergarten principal from coastal Shanghai shares her observations on the development of nurturing services in pre-primary education in China.
Making care available to every child
Cui Jie, a special education teacher at the Hohhot Children's Welfare House feels very proud. She, along with her colleagues, has become the "mother" of 19 children.
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From struggling to change the diapers of children living with disabilities who were abandoned by their parents, to being surprised and delighted by the daily progress made by her wards, she feels that her life has changed just as much as the children in the welfare home.
The Hohhot Children's Welfare House is currently home to about 200 orphaned children aged zero to 18 who were entrusted to its certified care by the local public security authorities.
"When I first came to the welfare house, I realized there are quite a few abandoned children living with disabilities in the society. And things that are simple to able-bodied people such as eating, walking, talking, and going to the toilet are physically demanding to these children, and require repeated exercises to master," Cui told the Global Times.
What encourages Cui to continue on her path as a special education teacher is the continuous care from the CPC toward these disadvantaged and abandoned children, which includes not only policy and financial support, but also the constant spur forward of the welfare institution to elevate the children's upbringing and educational requirements.
According to Cui, in recent years, the welfare institute has been innovatively developing several types of refined child care methods. Children in the institution from 0 to 3 years old of age are raised in simulated families, while children over the age of 3 are evaluated according to their age, degree of physical disability, and their ability to potentially take care of themselves throughout their lives, and are then entered into one of many suitable group parenting models.
At present, Cui and a team of professionals including teachers, rehabilitators, caregivers, and social workers are responsible for the health care and education of 19 children between the ages of 7 and 14.
In the morning, workers at the welfare house communicate with children and help them review the lessons of the past day, and then they provide lessons according to the schedule. In the afternoon, they research and update the children's personal profiles - communicating with the children's caregivers or teachers to create teaching objectives and growth plans according to the different conditions of each child — this is the routine of Cui's daily work.
Cui noted workers here are not only professional but are also caring and patient. "We call that work ethos 'a mother's love', which means taking them on as our own children, taking care of them without hesitation, and providing them with enough of a sense of security and love," Cui explained.
"Here, I have witnessed many children learning the first greeting in their lives, and calling us mom and dad. A constant sense of accomplishment drives and supports my work: The children here were once seeds without soil, and now they have become happy blooming flowers," she said.
The entire society should extend compassion and care toward children, particularly orphans and those living with physical disabilities, and make concerted efforts to ensure they grow up healthy and with love, Chinese President Xi Jinping, also the general secretary of the CPC Central Committee and chairman of the Central Military Commission, said during an inspection tour of the welfare house in 2014.
Cui noted that whether in the work of individualized, standardized and specialized education, medical treatment, during the children's stay in the institution, or social settlement when they reach the age of 18, the staff at the welfare institute always works with the Party and the government, caring for the children and constantly improving their expressions, abilities, and knowledge acquisition, so that they can live a better quality of life.
As a Party member, Cui has always thought about the role she plays in her workplace. In the welfare house, she noticed that many Party members around her are actively taking the lead, and other people would take their work attitude as an example. "They become more serious when we are serious," Cui said.
After the outbreak of the Covid-19 epidemic, staff members at the Hohhot Children's Welfare House, led by Party members, sacrificed their rest time during the lockdown period and continued to work in the institution to ensure that the children's study, life, and rehabilitation training would proceed normally.
At the same time, many staffers in working units led by CPC went to the welfare institute to help and communicate with the children. Every Children's Day and traditional Chinese holiday, children at the institute unfailingly receive countless holiday wishes from well-wishers from all sectors of society.
Since 2014, Hohhot Children's Welfare House has settled more than 240 orphaned children, many of whom later integrated into the normal working life of society. At present, authorities in Hohhot have provided a precise subsidy of 2,000 yuan ($293) per person per month for orphans at the welfare house, which has secured the bottom line for the survival and development of children in difficulty.
During her 13 years working at the orphanage, Cui has also been pleased to witness that the number of orphans in society getting smaller and smaller.
According to the Ministry of Civil Affairs, as of May 25, 2021, the number of orphans in China dropped to 190,000 from 507,000 in 2011.
"It is our greatest hope that every child can grow and thrive, in which we have a lot of confidence," said Cui.
For a brighter tomorrow
In today's China, there are nearly 113 million preschool children between the ages of 0 and 6 years. With the deepening and accelerating upgrading of child nurturing services and preschool education, ensuring people's access to childcare services has gradually become one of the top priorities of the Party's measures in improving people's living standards over the last decade, benefiting more families.
At the time of the interview with the Global Times, Gong Min, principal of Shanghai Wunan Kindergarten (Wunan Kindergarten), had just finished collecting materials for the nursery class children before school starts on September 1.
"There are too many details that need to be communicated to parents online and offline to understand the demands of parents and children, which are integrated into the individual file of each child, helping teachers to better understand and provide services to the children," Gong told the Global Times.
Wunan Kindergarten is one of nearly 700 kindergartens in Shanghai that have opened nursery classes to alleviate difficulties experienced by local families getting children into nursery school.
Currently, a lack of proper caregivers for babies is the primary factor that prevents childbearing, senior officials from the National Health Commission (NHC) and National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) said at a press conference on August 17.
China is working on investing more to improve pre-school institutions to decrease families' burdens and increase their willingness to have children, said the officials.
From 2020 to 2022, the NHC and NDRC have conducted a targeted campaign investing 2 billion yuan ($295 million) from the budget of the central government, and have made efforts to have local governments invest more than 5 billion yuan to boost nursery services.
As a kindergarten director and a deputy at the Xuhui district People's Congress, Gong has always maintained close communication with the parents whose children attend the kindergarten in her district.
"Parents are looking for kindergartens or other childcare institutions closer to home, with lower fees, and a wider array of educational models. Young moms and dads in particular have high expectations for education quality," Gong said.
Gong said that the government is currently actively encouraging the development of inclusive nursery services and preschool education by all sectors in society, not only through financial support, but also by investing great efforts into the training of practitioners.
"With the support of the Party and the government, Wunan Kindergarten has teamed up with Xuhui district's child care centers to invite experts to conduct training for our kindergarten teachers to continuously improve the quality of our childcare services," she said.
Currently, the Shanghai Municipal Education Commission and Shanghai Human Resources Bureau have been partnering to provide training for more than 10,000 practitioners.
As a CPC member, Gong has never wavered in her choice of career for the last 34 years.
"In my eyes, preschool education is a very rewarding job because any little care you give to a child will have an impact on the child's life in the present and even in the future," Gong said, noting that the three steps of childbirth, upbringing, and education are in fact important for thousands of families, as well as for the Party and the country. The scientific infant and child care service system that China is building is a long-term plan that considers the care and growth of children a national priority.
Gong, clearly remembers that in 1988, when she first started working in early childhood education, her monthly salary was only 18.50 yuan, noting that at that time many people in China would regard preschool education teachers as nursery nannies. Today, however, she feels very relieved that she is working with a team of highly qualified teachers at her school, with 47 percent of the teachers having attained postgraduate degrees and 15 percent having returned after graduating from overseas universities. Many of them enjoy the preferential policies provided by the government, such as talent apartment and household registration.
"Currently, China has vowed to improve nursery services to encourage childbearing, the team of preschool education professionals is getting bigger and bigger. We are working together with the country to advance toward a goal. I believe that in the future, there will be many more happy families," she said.