Saturday, August 16, 2008

Diary of Ma Yan

Recently a friend dropped by and returned The Diary of Ma Yan, which she had borrowed from me a few years ago. For anyone interested in China as a country, its education and rural economy, this book is a fascinating and legitimate easy-to-read introduction. It is the diary of a 13 year old girl who was unable to continue her education due the extreme poverty of her family life.

Her diary came into the hands of Pierre Haski, a French journalist, who published it as a book with his added commentary. He started a fund to offer support to Ma Yan and other young students in the province of Ningxia. Here is an excerpt,

Excerpt: "Mom said to me: ‘My child, I have something to tell you. I’m afraid that this is the last time you can go to school.’ I opened my eyes wide in astonishment, stared at her and said ‘How can you say such a thing to me? People cannot survive without knowledge these days. Even a peasant needs knowledge to work his land, or he will have no harvest.’

“Mom continued speaking: ‘With your brothers and you going to school, that makes three. Your father is the only one who works. We cannot afford to pay for you all. Your two brothers must continue their studies,’" explained Ma Yan.

"I then asked Mom: ‘Why do boys get to study and girls cannot?’ Mom replied: ‘You are still young, you do not understand. You’ll understand when you are older.’

“I want to study, Mom, I do not want to come back home. It would be so magnificent if I could stay at school forever,” said Ma Yan.

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