*Graphic warning* Insulted by teacher, Chinese teen commits suicide
March 18, 2011Jing Gao3 Commentschild abuse, Child rearing, chinese youth, Corporal punishment, depression, Education, minors, One-child policy, PKU, psychologist, psychology, suicide, teachers' ethics, Youth rights
A Chinese high school student was vituperated in his teacher’s office after he was caught playing games on his cellphone. The teacher kept showering abusive and insulting language on him despite his formal apology. The student jumped off the school building in front of his mother.
*Graphic Warning*: the following pictures have been resized for readers’ and the subjects’ consideration. If you are psychologically prepared, please click on them to view full-sized pictures.
Zhang Zhipeng (张志鹏), a 15-year-old student at No.3 Middle School of Pucheng County in China’s southern Fujian Province, didn’t expect his young life to be ended in this fashion. Last Friday, he fidgeted with his cellphone in class and was caught red-handed by a teacher. Zhang Zhipeng didn’t protest. He was aware that he actually violated the school discipline that bans cellphone use during class hours. The teacher didn’t take away the cellphone in its entirety; the battery was returned to Zhang right then. Zhang thought he would part from his cellphone just for the weekend.
This Monday, he went to school as usual. However, in the afternoon, Su Meirong, the teacher in charge of the class, dragged him out of the classroom when other students were present. In her office, Su Meirong zeroed in on Zhang Zhipeng for a long while before Zhang’s mother came to the office at the beck of Su Meirong.
After the mother came, Su Meirong went on to berate Zhang and slammed her desk several times during the process. On seeing her son’s misty eyes, the mother talked his son into apologizing to the teacher, hoping to end this storm. However, Su Meirong refused to accept it. Instead, she said, “You, get your schoolbag, and f**k out! No need to come to school any more. Your entire life has been screwed up and is officially over.”
Until this moment, Zhang Zhipeng didn’t answer a word back. He had been lowering his head and stomaching the abuse along. However, after Su Meirong finished her insults. Zhang Zhipeng walked in silence out of the office and immediately jumped off the fourth floor. Zhang’s mother tried to stop him. However, right in front of her eyes, her own flesh and blood fell to the ground.
Zhang’s mother rushed downstairs, held Zhang’s body in her arms and cried for at least twenty minutes, during which time, nobody came to offer help, even though the hospital is right across the street from the school.
So far, this is all the information Ministry of Tofu has got from the victim’s family and sympathizers on the internet. We understand that their account of what happened may be biased and may not represent the whole story. However, so far, no official news source has covered the story.
Source: Tianya, Mop, NetEase Blog
This is far from the first incident of Chinese children and teenagers committing suicide that can be at least partially blamed onto schoolwork, teachers and the education system. Here is an incomplete list of similar suicides that we have put together via internet research.
02/28/2011: A 17-year-old boy in Macheng, central Hubei Province, jumped off a school building and lied on the ground for two hours in the rain before he breathed his last. According to the parents, their son, Ding Jinhui, was bullied by his jealous classmates because of his excellent academic performances. The school and the teachers didn’t intervene. Rather, teachers reprimanded the student on several occasions, and even humiliated him publicly by smashing his cellphone and asking him to clean up the mess. The parents requested and even tipped off the teachers with 500 yuan (US$75) to take good care of the student, which they failed to do. On the day of his death, the parents, on receiving a text message containing death note from the son, was prevented from entering the school. Later, the school authority covered up the suicide.
12/29/2010: A 11-year-old boy hanged himself with a red scarf at home without leaving any death note. It is said that before his suicide, he was ordered by his teacher to stay in the classroom during lunch time and transcribe reference books, a punitive measure often employed by Chinese teachers. He didn’t finish the task in the two hours prior to his death.
12/24/2010: A 13-year-old girl in Xiamen, southern Fujian Province, jumped off her home on the 9th floor and died after she was accused of cheating in an exam. Student witnesses said the proctoring teacher tore her answering sheets into pieces and slapped her in the face eight times in public.
07/03/2010: Five 6th graders, including three girls and two boys, drank herbicide together in a rural village in western Shaanxi Province. They were discovered by villagers in time and were saved. They later said they wanted to kill themselves because their teacher gave them corporal punishments, including slapping them in the face.
05/12/2009: A 13-year-old boy in Tai’an, eastern Jiangsu Province, emptied a bottle of herbicide after he was criticized by his teacher in front of the class for assisting in plagiarism and charging her classmates for the “service.” He conceded after being saved that because he was very outstanding academically in class, he feared that his mistake would enrage his parents who have high expectations for him.
05/20/2006: Two 14-year-old girls and one 16-year-old boy in Yuyao, eastern Zhejiang Province, carried out their suicide plan by taking pesticide before jumping into a river. Two drowned. The one girl who got rescued divulged that they wanted to revenge on their teacher who beat them in class for failing to answer a math question.
05/24/2005：A 11-year-old boy in Jiangchuan, southern Yunnan Province, took poison at home and died. His parents learned from his classmates that his teacher beat him over a mistake he committed.
05/30/2005: A 15-year-old girl in Shenyang, northeastern Liaoning Province jumped from the 15th floor of an office building after her teacher read aloud her love letter in front of fellow students.
It is easy to find something in common among these cases: corporal punishment and public humiliation.
Corporal punishment is a cultural practice in China. Even to this day, Chinese parents believe firmly in “Spare the rod, spoil the child.” While most parents tend to pamper their single children much more than their predecessors since the enforcement of the One Child Policy, spanking is still widely recognized as an effective way to rein an unruly kid and deter the kid from making the same mistake again.
On the other hand, China has a saying, “He who teaches me for one day is my father for life.” Traditionally, teacher is deemed a fatherly figure of both cultivation and cachet. Therefore, until the end of the feudal era in early 1990s, school corporal punishment was not only common but also encouraged. Even though the Communist Party has theoretically banned corporal punishment at school, some unscrupulous or short-tempered teachers hate to relinquish the role of father/mother, which gives them a sense of power and a vehicle for letting off steam.
However, when children and adolescents were abused and insulted by teachers, unlike adults who know how to vent, they swallow it, and let it get to their hearts and ego before finally imploding. Children’s mental health is often ignored in China, as adults assume children are happy and free from worries and stress that adults are faced with. Besides, as a result of Confucian value of filial piety, which characterizes the respect a child should show to his parents, coupled with China’s societal sea change after the economic reform that has widened generation gap, Chinese kids are generally not as close to their parents as their western counterparts are, and are less prone to view their parents as friends to whom they can divulge their secrets. They tend to bear them themselves.
What about a psychologist? Not only children and adolescents, but Chinese in general, are put off by the fact that the Chinese word for psychologist means literally “heart reason consultant,” which can send a mistaken message that one who sees a psychologist has lost reason or had something wrong with the mind. Even if they get past that, they are uncomfortable with airing their dirty linen, which runs afoul of the important Chinese concept of saving face.
However, according to a survey conducted in 2004, among 2,500 elementary and middle school (equivalent of 7th to 12th grade) students, 5.85% planned suicide and 24.39% had a passing idea of “better to die than to live.” In 2005, Peking University’s research showed that 20.4% of kids in 13 Chinese cities had thought of killing themselves. According to Dr. Xu Guangxing, director of the center for psychological health at East China Normal University, until June 6, 2010, 5 to 6 percent of students under the age of 18 are suffering from depression.
Clearly, Chinese youth need the couch, whereas some teachers need to have hearts.