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After graduating from the Shaanxi Normal University’s Department of Fine Arts in 2011, Wang Weitao ventured to Tibet to work as an art teacher in the No. 4 Lhasa Senior Middle School. In his spare time, the young photography enthusiast began shooting his new surroundings. Wang believed he was communicating with the land through his camera. He shot scenery and trains, but most often, people. In the homes of his Tibetan students, Wang chatted with their families, drank butter tea, and joined local Tibetan dances. Wang posted many of his first photos with the families on his blog. “The whole world can see you and your livestock on the internet,” he told his students.
When he had a break of more than three days, Wang would travel to Shigatse, about 300 kilometers from Lhasa. He would either visit a local elementary school and serve as a volunteer teacher or volunteer in an orphanage. Naturally, kids became his most frequent subjects. In Wang’s eyes, although they didn’t lead affluent lives, they demonstrated profound joy when they studied and played. They considered poverty temporary and had the courage to fight for a future, a pure embodiment of a will and a way. Because of Wang’s works, donations to the school and the orphanage increased. The orphanage became public and now receives support from the government, and the kids’ lives have been greatly improved.
Wang wants to help more local kids with his photography. “I have greater ambitions than just capturing pictures of them. Showcasing their lives and educational situations gets them more attention and thus improves their lives. I hope they will learn great things from the world and develop broad vision.”
The bulk of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, the Tibet Autonomous Region covers a vast area at an average altitude of 4,000 meters. Although the overall education situation in Tibet has witnessed rapid development in recent years, it is still comparatively weak in remote areas, especially those with inconvenient transportation and poor communication. Lacking infrastructure, including schools, is already a big challenge in remote areas of Tibet. However, schools specifically impact kids the most. They are not only beacons of knowledge, but also hope and happiness, adding vibrant color to otherwise dull and lonely lives. In recent years, Tibet has adopted many preferential policies to help poverty-stricken students in elementary and middle schools and spared no efforts to establish a mechanism to allocate quality education resources to remote areas, border areas, and agricultural and pastoral areas. In 2013 alone, 209 new kindergartens opened. By January 2014, 860 elementary schools were operating in Tibet.
In terms of orphanages, to which Wang has paid great attention in his work, Tibet doesn’t have many. Less than 20 governmental child welfare institutions are found in Tibet. Many orphans are raised by their relatives or parents’ friends. However, the future holds hope, as local governments have been increasing investment in this field.