Saturday, July 13, 2013

Ya Xing - Star of Linxia | Little Mecca of China


Linxia is 2 hours by road to the south of Lanzhou - the capital of Gansu province in the northwest region of China. By road I mean quite precarious route across barren rugged mountain - almost like those you see in Mecca. Coincidentally Linxia is known as little Mecca of China. 

We headed for Linxia with only two objectives: to visit a world class Islamic kindergarten & primary school, and a private orphanage. Couldn't resist adding the word Islamic to this unique school named Ya Xing because it is clearly managed on Islamic principles. But it's better to project Islam through practice than just a name, is it not?

According to the school's principal Mr. Lin Qing Zong (Abu Bakar), Ya in the chinese language means gentle and Xing means star. The school does produce gentle stars. Its first shining star was Asmah who became a hafizah at the age of 7 after having spent three years at Ya Xing Kindergarten. Abu Bakar, a graduate of Islamabad International Islamic University is himself a hafiz. He spoke to us with great passion, the mission and vision of Ya Xing Kindergarten which he co-founded in 2006 together with another two friends Nuh and Ishak. They initiated this exemplary institution with only 37,000 Yuan (about RM 20,000).  

Ya Xing Kindergarten
Ya Xing Kindergarten is, believe it or not, a boarding kindergarten. Yes, children live in the state-of-the-art complex for about 350 days a year and attend lessons 7 days a week. They are exposed to both modern education and religion. "Graduate of Ya Xing kindergarten should be both a hafiz/hafizah and a well rounded student. Ya Xing derives its name from Surah Yaasin which is the heart of the Quran. And Quran is the heart of Ya Xing Kindergarten & Primary School. Yaasin is also one of the names of Prophet Muhammad." - said Abu Bakar.

Toothbrush cabinet
Children live in a 2-level self-contained quarters. On the top floor is the classroom cum playroom which is equipped with a smart 'black board' and a piano. The groundfloor is a spacious living quarters for students and two live-in teachers. At present there are 214 pupils enrolled at Ya Xing kindergarten, aged between 3 to 6.

Adjacent to the kindergarten quarters is a proper music and dance room, and a well equipped clinic. Everything is in order and very neat. As can be seen in the photos, toothbrush and towels are kept in sterilized cupboards. Each child is given a separate towel for face, hand, feet and body - all clearly labeled and kept in a sterile cabinet. Their lockers are super neat. Mugs, jackets and shoes are also neatly stored.

Towel cupboard
The kindergarten complex has a common kitchen which is also squeaky clean and graded "A" by the local authority. Plates and cups are stored in a sterilized cabinet. Children eat 3 meals plus supper daily and their diet comprises of quality food e.g. honey, milk, fruits and nuts. Children pay 300 Yuan (RM150) per month for food and 2000 Yuan (RM1000) for kindergarten tuition fee per semester. Because primary education in China is free, students at Ya Xing Primary school need only pay for food which is only 400 Yuan per month.

The facilities at Ya Xing Kindergarten & Primary School is very impressive so it's not surprising that the waiting-list is up to year 2016. But the selection process is quite stringent. Prospective kindergarten pupils will be interviewed to see if he/she can eat by him/herself; pronounce words clearly; has an acceptable intelligence (tested through special games) and if they come from a religious family background.

Students who get accepted at Ya Xing can expect to receive full attention. The teacher-student ratio is 1 to 3.2. There are five categories of teachers:
- Normal teachers (for teaching common subjects i.e. Maths, Arts etc)
- Specialized teachers (for special subjects i.e. Arabic, music etc.)
- Quran teacher (for memorization etc.)
- House tutor (1 young + 1 elder/mother)
- Medical/Psychology teachers

Super neat lockers!
Children spend 6 hours in school, 8 hours for sleeping, 4 hours for playing and 6 hours for memorizing the Quran. The school has a total of 292 students, some of whom are from abroad i.e. Africa, Pakistan, Yemen and Syria.

Facilities at the Primary school is even better. It has an up-to-date auditorium and a computer/internet room equipped with the latest PC. Abu Bakar the principal showed us every corner of the Ya Xing complex including the student's bathroom which has been specially designed for children, and the school's financial records which are all transparent and well kept. He even showed us his salary slip. MashaAllah a relatively small sum compared to what he could have earned from good positions he had been offered in universities and corporations. Abu Bakar has a Master's degree in aqidah and philosophy and was granted a gold medal for having a GPA above 4. He is now doing PhD at Washington University.

Abu Bakar or Lin Qing Zong (middle)
 has kindly invited this writer to spend summer
at Ya Xing's charming accomodation reserved for guests.
[will definitely visit again, someday InshaAllah]

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