Class for girls of the Yao ethnic group in Nanping Town Ethnic Middle School in Shangsi county, the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region. Huo Yan / China Daily
"They are shy, independent and considerate. Many of them would have married were it not for the program. As the saying goes in their villages, 'dogs do not cultivate land and girls do not read books'," Ling says. "They feel indebted to the society's donations and family's support. The school doesn't need to monitor their exams because they are very honest and do not cheat."
Yet, on June 25 when the entrance exam results came out, Zhao's score on the exam only allowed her to apply for a vocational school.
"I felt bad, because I disappointed my step-parents," Zhao says. "But I will continue to strive to realize my dream and become a teacher for the mountain villages one day."
Mo received Zhao's call in late June. "She has never left the county and would like me to help her to choose a teacher's school," Mo says. "Her voice sounds like it did five years ago when I met her. But when I saw her, I was astonished by how the hardship of life has shaped a young girl. An underdeveloped, thin, dark village woman stood in front of me."
"She saw my surprise and wore a shy smile on her face. She says after doing some farm work at home after gaokao, she helped one of her ailing sisters to cut trees and build a house with her family in the mountain. She says it so casually as if it was an easy job," Mo sighs.
Mo recommended that she apply for student loans to pay for the tuition fee in a local teacher's school. But the high living expenses in the city left Zhao pondering her future.
Mo Jinmei and Yang Huihong contributed to the story.