When an 8-year-old boy went to school with a frozen head, his teacher was upset by the sight. When he looked even closer, however, his heart broke further for the boy. The images he took are something every American needs to see.
Wang Fuman, an 8-year-old third-grader living in Xinjie province in China, might live in extreme poverty, but he knows the importance of school. Fuman’s mother left his family. His father works far away, only returning home once or twice a year, forcing the boy to live with his grandmother. But, he doesn’t take the privilege of going to school for granted.
Proving just that is the viral photo that emerged of him online after he arrived at school with his head frozen, earning him the title of China’s “Ice Boy.” Fuman lives in an impoverished area of western China, 3 miles from his school, which means at least an hour long walk each way. Sometimes, that long trek, from his remote mountain village of Zhuanshanbao to his state school every day, is freezing.
Such was the case the day his teacher snapped a photo of him with his hair, eyebrows, and eyelashes encrusted in ice after he arrived at school on a freezing winter’s day with temperatures of -9 degrees Celsius (roughly 15 degrees Fahrenheit). His cheeks were burning red from the cold after Fuman made the chilling journey in just a thin jacket so he could take his exams, Metro reported.
In another photo of him posted to social media, exposing the tough conditions that many students face, Fuman’s hands were frozen while he completed the exam that he was determined not to miss despite the cold. Sadly, other children laughed at the boy, further breaking the hearts of viewers around the world as the images went viral, thrusting the young boy into the spotlight.
Although he was eventually offered a free education at a private boarding school, Fuman was removed after just over one week when the headmaster said Xinhua School in Zhaotong in southwestern Yunnan province couldn’t cope with the intense scrutiny from the authorities and the media, South China Morning Post reported. Fuman was obviously disappointed after he had grown to love his new school in the short time he was there.
“The teachers taught better than those at Zhuanshanbao Primary School. Pupils don’t talk in class and everyone is focused on studying,” he said. “I lived there and didn’t need to walk a long way to get to school. I only needed to join running exercises every morning,” he added. “I ate better, too. Unlike at home, when my granny is busy, my sister and I need to find food for ourselves … because we don’t know how to cook, we just boil potatoes, but at Xinhua school, I ate so many different things.”
“At first, I didn’t know,” Xinhua School’s headmaster, who asked only to be identified by his surname Yang, told the Post, “but later, I found out that Fuman had been identified by the Ministry of Education as a key figure to be helped in the government’s poverty alleviation efforts. There are very few such pupils in the whole Yunnan province.” He further explained that the school was simply unable to cope with the extra demands placed on it by Fuman’s attendance.
“As a result, during these days of having him in my school, we received numerous requests from various levels of government departments to inspect us. Many media outlets also insisted on interviewing us. It was impossible for me to reject many of these requests,” he said. “This was not what I wanted, so I had to tell Fuman’s father to take the boy back to his original school.”
He wanted to help the boy because he wanted to “do some good,” but he had wanted to do so in a low-profile manner and could no longer handle the immense pressure and scrutiny from authorities that the school was under with Fuman’s enrollment. In what turned out to be a bit of foreshadowing, he said, “When Fuman arrived at my school, I told him, ‘Although you may be poor now, you should still have aspirations. Others’ help is only temporary, but studying hard will help you change your fate.'”
Wang Fuman has shown just how disciplined he is and how much he cares about his education. It’s a shame he is forced to go to school in such challenging conditions, but at least he can serve as an inspiration to others. Attending school isn’t just important, it’s a privilege many take for granted. Sadly, there are millions of children around the world who can’t go to school or are forced to go in terrible conditions, like Wang Fuman.
Our own children should be reminded the next time they think they have it so bad in America. And, if that’s not enough to make others appreciate what they have, perhaps what the boy had to say about his mother will. After his mom left the family two years before, all the boy wanted was for her to “come back” and “scold” him. Admitting that his mother often beat him, in a message to her, the boy pleaded, begging her to please come back, even if it meant harsh punishment.
“Mum, I don’t want to wait any longer only to be disappointed again,” he said. “I want you to beat me and scold me for my mistakes … At least, then, you would be by my side.” So, if you have a mother who is there to care for you and loves you without harming you, and you get to take a bus to a warm school every day, think of Wang Fuman and pray for him as you remember just how blessed you are.