While his mother spent long days picking tea leaves in the fields surrounding Han Ping Village, in Qionglai County in rural China, three-year-old Feifei fell under his 90-year-old grandfather’s care. This usually meant Feifei spent his days at home with very little discipline or structured activities as his grandfather’s age prevented him for being hands-on.
Feifei had few opportunities to play or socialize with other children and as a result did not adjust well to being with others or being placed in new social environments. When teachers from Aide et Action’s Child Center came to Hang Ping Village and provided some mobile educational services, Feifei’s mother jumped at the chance to give her child a new experience. While the pair both enjoyed it, they didn’t have a chance to go frequently due to Feife’s mother’s need to work in the fields.
Soon after the end of the high season for picking tea leaves, Feifei’s father drove the family to Aide et Action’s Child Center, because he felt something had to change with their son. He needed support for his development. During the first day at the Child Center, Feifei was very shy and didn’t talk to the teachers or play with the other children. Instead, he isolated himself from the group and cried the entire time. Because of that, the two teachers at the Center gave me and Feifei an additional class after school and comforted his mother, reassuring her that it was very common common for children to cry on their first day of class.
Feifei’s teachers asked his mother to keep taking him to the Center, promising her that eventually he would adapt to the new environment. After being told this, Feifei’s mother was adamant about taking him to class every day. Gradually, Feifei began to feel more comfortable in a classroom setting and surprised his mother when he started to say hello and interacting with his classmates and instructors. The teachers were also very aware of these changes and kept encouraging him. Now, Feifei’s confidence has grown a lot, and he is happy to go to class to participate in activities and his parents are thrilled to watch his development unfold.
Our research shows that in the areas where we work, rural families have very little knowledge on how to raise preschool children. In these areas, early childhood care and education is rarely approached or looked at in a scientific manner. Families focus the upbringing of their children on their physical needs, using their own past experiences and by comparing their children with other children and families in the neighborhood. Lack of open spaces and a scarcity of resources for early childhood care and education further compromise the children’s optimal development. All in all, life in many rural areas of China is still hard, with many of its families struggling economically, which poses serious challenges to the early development of many infants and young children.