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  • Chris McMillan

There's something special about Gong Yili


1st October 2020

There's something special about Gong Yili

By Yu Hong

Gong Yili talks with her students in class at Chengjia School, an institution focused on special education.

When wandering around Chengjia School, I found that it wasn’t filled with noises from the classrooms. Students were following what the teachers were saying and seemed to be quite enjoying the lesson.

I met several students in the corridor with two teachers and an assistant holding their hands to lead them to another classroom. They were not shy at all, saying hello and waving to me as if we knew each other, but actually this was the first time I had been to the place.

It broke my stereotype because the students in this school are suffering from moderate or profound intellectual disability, some with Down’s syndrome or autism that may cause them to be tense in front of strangers or making chaos. They also greeted their teacher Gong Yili who was showing me round. They were like friends rather than in a teacher-student relationship.

With their polite manner, I knew they must have been well-educated at this school, being cared by teachers and staff, including Gong.

A graduate from East China Normal University in special education, Gong said she didn’t think about it too much when choosing her major but just wanted to do something to help these children.

Chengjia School provides free education for students ranging from preschool to the ninth grade. Currently, it has more than 160 students and over 50 teachers — two teachers in each classroom and one more assistant in the classroom for lower grades. Classes are limited to no more than 10 students.

The school also deals with daily management work of vocational education since 2017.

Gong, who has been at the school for 16 years, is the vice principal and “life math” teacher of the second grade.

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