|Happy is she who hath believed that there shall be a perfecting of the things which have been
spoken to her from the Lord!| -- The Gospel
according to Luke.
|There is nothing more divine than the education
of children.| -- PLATO.
|The fate of empires depends upon the education of
children.| -- ARISTOTLE.
|Take heed that ye despise not -- offend not -- forbid
not -- one of these little ones.| -- The Commandment
A CASKET OF JEWELS
BEING AN ACCOUNT OF THE GIRLS' SCHOOL
MRS. HSI has never replaced the ornaments she sold thirty years ago. Had she heard the story told of Cornelia, mother of the Gracchi, I fancy her thoughts would have found expression, when she lately visited us and saw the many courtyards occupied by women and girls, in the famous words of the Roman matron: |These are my jewels.| The interest on that first small gift is incalculable, and can never be tabulated in human statistics. An attempt to record the many activities of the Hwochow Mission station as it now stands, would be incomplete without some detailed account of the Girls' School and Normal Training College.
The schools occupy four courts, and the ages of the pupils assembled range from the smallest, who is only five, to young women of over twenty. The Teaching Staff consists entirely of women, all of whom have been trained here, and we shall perhaps get our best view of them at the Teachers' Meeting held weekly in the Principal's room. A glance will reveal the strong individualities here represented, and these twelve young women cover as many varieties of temperament. Here all matters connected with the school are mentioned, and it is striking to see the various view-points taken. The loving nature which would lead, but never drive, a rebellious child; the puritan, who will smile at no infringement of the law, and whose stern eye has been even known to call the Principal to order; the quick glance of the woman whose type reveals an inevitable leader, the stern disciplinarian, and the easy-going, good-natured woman -- all are here, their diversity of gifts revealing the unity of the One Spirit. Ling Ai and I alone know how much we have to thank God for the friendliness of their mutual relationships. As to myself, the loyalty, love, and unity of my band of fellow-workers is my joy and crown.
Thrice already has the staff been increased by graduates qualifying from the Normal Training Class, and our students have included some from the borders of Mongolia -- a journey of twenty days -- from Shensi, Honan, and Chihli provinces, in addition to those from all the China Inland Mission schools in Central Shansi.
The education given in the school is arranged to cover the double course required by Chinese and Western standards. The capacity for memorising possessed by the Chinese is well known. A Chinese classical scholar's memory is so trained for retentiveness that one who became a Christian was able, with ease, to commit to memory five chapters of the New Testament each day. Were it not for this capacity the mastery of Chinese would be an impossibility, for a small child of ten years old, in addition to ordinary general subjects as taught in an English school, is required in a term of three months to learn to write and recognise five hundred new Chinese characters, and by the time she has completed her course can repeat by heart the greater part of the New Testament, Psalms, and the classical works of Confucius and Mencius.
The Chinese are extraordinarily observant, and it is difficult to mention anything which has escaped their notice. Nevertheless, the classification of their observations in a scientific form of nature study is an entirely new method to them, though this gift, once developed, should cause China ultimately to rank high in the world of science. The girls' restricted surroundings have yielded new joys since they learned the delight of an observation beehive, the ramifications of an anthill, and the notes and habits of the birds which visit us. A thorough knowledge of the Scriptures is considered of primary importance, and only girls who by Christian character give promise when trained of being missionaries to their own people, are accepted as Normal Students. During the course outlines of Old and New Testament are studied, with detailed work of selected books. The students are required to prepare their own analyses of various books, following the system of Dr. Campbell Morgan's Analysed Bible.
The many classes which constitute the Elementary and Secondary schools form the training-ground for the necessary practice in teaching, which aims at being very thorough. The first lesson, given in the presence of a critical audience, is no small ordeal to the student who after elaborate preparation with diagram, blackboard, plasticine, or sand-tray, will realise when the moment of free criticism comes, that in her nervousness she has omitted to make any use of that on which she had bestowed so much labour. Gradually, however, a new class emerges from utter helplessness into an encouraging self-confidence and resourcefulness.
[Illustration: SOME KINDERGARTEN SCHOLARS.
To face page 236.]
A visitor to the school could see ten or twelve classes at various stages on the high road of learning, each under the control of a capable young Chinese woman, before the Kindergarten room is reached.
Here, with merry shouts, the sixteen babies are all keen to display the glories of the dolls' house, and all anxious to sing their action songs, show their plasticine modelling, paper-plaiting, and fancy drill; still possessing the child's heart, and therefore fearless of criticism. Each one covets the role of spokesman to relate the travelling adventures of the doll, which spends but little time in the house and is constantly undertaking long and difficult journeys. From this intrepid traveller they have obtained most of their geographical information.
Long hours of work are the order of the day in a Chinese school, the terms being short owing to the exigencies of the extreme climate. The wheat harvest falls in June, and it is necessary that wives and daughters should fulfil their obligations to the home during this busy season.
The month of September brings the eagerly looked-for day when by cart, donkey, litter, or even on foot, from north, south, east, and west, the small travellers wend their way to Hwochow. The babies of the Kindergarten not infrequently sit in the panniers, slung across a donkey's back, or in baskets which a man will carry balanced on his shoulder. Each party on arrival passes through the room where Mr. Gwo, a capable deacon, sits at the receipt of custom, and thence to the guest-room where a respectful bow is made to the missionaries and head teacher.
The next visit is to the dispensary where Fragrant Incense, my head assistant in this department, conducts a strict inquiry into personal, family, and village health, and where newcomers are being vaccinated.
|I hear that your uncle has smallpox,| may be the alarming accusation.
|It is not worth speaking of,| answers Snowflake.
|Have you been to the house?|
|A few times,| says the puzzled scholar, quite unable to trace the connection between her uncle's attack of |heavenly blossoms| and our unwillingness to admit her to the school court.
Once a girl has entered the school premises it is not to leave them again for the period of the term, and all that is necessary to fulfil the conditions of her life is supplied in this little world.
One of her first visits will be to the bank where an account is opened in her name, it being one of the school rules, in order to avoid loss, that no girl may keep her own money; any found on her person or in her box being forfeited. Every Saturday afternoon eager young depositors can be seen drawing sums varying from one to fifty cash for shopping purposes, or with a view to the Sunday service collection. At the same hour the school shop is open, under the care of a teacher with a senior pupil as assistant.
|What do you stock?| a newcomer will ask the young saleswoman. |Everything,| is the bold answer, and indeed the few necessities of a Chinese schoolgirl may all be supplied. Materials needed for shoemaking, hemp for making string which is required in attaching soles to uppers, pretty silks for embroidery, thimbles, needles, hair ornaments, safety-pins, bright-coloured cord with which the Chinese girl holds every hair in place at the top of a long thick plait, which is her mode of head-dress; chalk, with which to whiten her calico socks, and the acacia pod, the bean of which serves as soap. All the requisites in stationery can be purchased, and it is amusing to see the Chinese brush-pen being carefully tested by minute prospective buyers. A newcomer will try in vain to get goods on credit, relying upon her father's generosity at an early date. |No,| is the answer; |come again when you have the cash.|
In another room the lending library is attracting large numbers. Here again a teacher, helped by a pupil, is changing or renewing books. With surprising skill any blot, stain, or torn page is discovered, and for years the books will pass from hand to hand with but little damage done.
The range of literature is fairly comprehensive, extending from world-wide favourites such as Little Lord Fauntleroy, Christie's Old Organ, Just So Stories, and the Wide Wide World, which are eagerly passed from hand to hand -- for every one reads them several times -- to such works as The History of the Dutch Republic, Biographies of Great Men, Works on Social Economy, and many books of reference. For the translation of these, and many other works into the Chinese language, we are indebted to the Christian Literature Society. At the sound of the head teacher's gong, all business ceases, and the girls proceed to the playground, where all enjoy swings, seesaw, and games.
Sunday opens with the delight of an extra hour in bed, and the wearing of best clothes. Sunday school and Public Service are enjoyed even by the smallest, and precede the happy hour when parents and near relatives may see the scholars. At its conclusion all are hungry for the dinner, which, though later than usual, proves well worth waiting for, consisting as it does of the popular white bread and vegetables. The afternoon closes with a service of praise.
Three times a day the children assemble in the large dining-hall for meals. Over one thousand pounds of flour are used each week, and about one hundred pounds of vegetables, in the preparation of the food. The bread is steamed and eaten hot, and the midday meal generally consists of flour and water, made into a paste, rolled out very thin, and cut into long strips which are boiled for a few minutes, and when cooked resemble macaroni. If a man's greatness consists in the small number of his needs, the Chinaman must rank high. A bowl and pair of chop-sticks is the sum total of the table requirements of each girl; a cotton wadded quilt and a small, bran-stuffed pillow comprise her bedding, and a cotton handkerchief will hold her neatly folded wardrobe. A child usually owns no toy, and many have never thought of an organised youthful festivity until they spend their first Christmas Day in school. With bated breath they hear from their elders of the joys in store, and watch secret preparations for presents to class teachers and missionaries. Excitement reaches its highest point when, with silent footstep, they creep into our courtyard in the winter dawn to sing Christmas carols, and in place of the temple gongs and weird music of heathen rites, the air rings with joyful strains as class after class takes up the refrain: |Oh come, let us adore Him, Christ the Lord!| The reputation of the evening illumination and Christmas-tree is so widespread, that two small newcomers were heard encouraging each other, eight months before this event, to endure with patience in hopes of seeing the glorious sight, and becoming the possessors of a threepenny doll.
Nearly five hundred girls have already passed through the school, and every few years we have made an attempt to gather them together for an informal conference; unfortunately, the distances are so great, and family claims so many, that only a very small proportion have been able to attend, and we have supplemented these by instituting an Old Girls' Guild which includes a prayer union whose members receive a quarterly circular letter.
The postal system does not reach most of the villages, so the letters must be entrusted to reliable messengers who may be going that way, and who are requested by words on the envelope: |Be so kind as to trouble yourself with this letter and deliver it into the hand of the Mother of Heavenly Bundle.| The young woman whose identity is thus hinted at is but one of perhaps twenty, whose offspring bear this name in the one village. Below are the mystic words: |The name is presented inside.| On the left side of the envelope is the urgent command: |Quick as fire! Quick as fire!| Thus nothing is omitted but the name of the addressee.
From early days an effort has been made to impress upon the students that a Christian community is only justified in so far as it partakes of the nature of a centrifugal force, extending its influence in every direction. The interests of students have been much enlarged by the residence in their midst of girls from other provinces, who are followed with prayerful interest when they leave us to enter their varied spheres of work. Beyond this, the scholar's widened sympathies find their expression in the zeal with which they follow missionary activity in other lands. Most earnest thought is given to the choice of destination of the sums reported in hand by the missionary treasurer. The Evangelical Union of South America, British and Foreign Bible Society, Pandita Ramabai, and Dr. Zwemer in Cairo have all received contributions, and latterly money has been sent to supply Testaments for the soldiers on active service. Nevertheless, the consensus of general opinion is, that the Moslem situation is at present so critical that all available funds must go to meet that need. Small indeed the sums may appear on a subscription list, but few gifts are, I think, more thoughtfully given and more prayerfully followed.
The money is contributed in various ways, the two most important being the school working party and the takings of the Debating Society, where debates and lectures are always sure of a full house.
The instinct for personal aggressive Christian work finds an outlet in the following ways: The annual fairs and idol processions held in the town bring large crowds of women visitors, and afford a great opportunity for the senior scholars to take their part in preaching, as also the evangelistic service held each week for Dispensary patients. The Sunday School classes of small children are taught by elder girls, and the annual Summer Campaign has provided scope for all those who have a will to work. At the close of the spring term, every girl who so desires is entrusted with a printed Course of Study, suitable for the elementary instruction of village women. At Sunday and weekday classes these are taught by the elder scholars of the village, even the younger children being able to take their part in helping the women to memorise a verse.
* * * * *
In order to secure the highest spiritual and mental efficiency amongst those who, by the nature of their calling, are constantly responding to the claims made upon them, we have instituted a Teachers' Summer School, to which are invited all former students now holding posts as teachers in Mission Schools. The month of August is devoted to this delightful gathering when, on the footing of fellow-workers, free from the restrictions attendant on school discipline, we meet for Bible and secular study. The curriculum of the coming term is discussed, difficulties considered, some new educational subject is studied, and an invaluable atmosphere is created.
In the silence of the moments of spiritual communion, lives are dedicated afresh to the service of God; by contemplation of the Word, fresh ideals are apprehended and more of the wisdom that winneth souls is learned, by which a band of workers is equipped anew for any manner of service, wholly at His command. The various activities recorded above each contribute a part to the upbuilding of character and the training of those who will be the future missionaries, mothers, and teachers of their people.
We desire that, rejoicing in the abundance of life which Christ came to bestow, they may by sacrificial service gather around them many who will say: |Happy the people whose God is the Lord!|