School principal's ferryman class act

Mr Li Congshu ferrying his pupils after school in Dazu district in south-west China's Chongqing municipality. He has been transporting pupils to and from school for more than 20 years. The crossing of the Xiangshuitan reservoir by boat takes about ha
Mr Li Congshu ferrying his pupils after school in Dazu district in south-west China's Chongqing municipality. He has been transporting pupils to and from school for more than 20 years.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
Mr Li Congshu ferrying his pupils after school in Dazu district in south-west China's Chongqing municipality. He has been transporting pupils to and from school for more than 20 years. The crossing of the Xiangshuitan reservoir by boat takes about ha
The crossing of the Xiangshuitan reservoir by boat takes about half an hour. It would take the pupils two hours - one way - to walk to school. Mr Li Congshu had drawn on his own savings to purchase the boats needed to ferry the pupils.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
Mr Li Congshu ferrying his pupils after school in Dazu district in south-west China's Chongqing municipality. He has been transporting pupils to and from school for more than 20 years. The crossing of the Xiangshuitan reservoir by boat takes about ha
MR LI CONGSHU, principal of the primary school in south-west China, on his ferrying duties.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

DAZU (China) • After school, a dozen children strap on life jackets under their backpacks before boarding a flat-bottomed boat in southwest China.

A 60-year-old man then sinks a pole into the green waters of the Xiangshuitan reservoir to push the punt in the daily, half-hour-long trip between the primary school and the pupils' village.

He is none other than the school principal.

"I do not have a choice because it would take too long for them to walk this far. The shortest route passes through the reservoir," Mr Li Congshu said. "That's why I bought a boat to transport them."

Mr Li drew on his own savings to purchase the boats. The school is on its fifth boat, after Mr Li bought the first more than 20 years ago. "It has become a part of my life, like teaching," he said.

In addition to his duties as a ferryman and a school principal, Mr Li teaches one of the five classes the small school offers each day in Dazu district, in the sprawling municipality of Chongqing.

STOPPING NOT A CHOICE

People tell me to stop boating because I am 60 this year, but there is no other solution. They do not want to pay someone, so I have to go on.

MR LI CONGSHU, principal of the primary school in south-west China, on his ferrying duties.

"People tell me to stop boating because I am 60 this year, but there is no other solution. They do not want to pay someone, so I have to go on." The crossing takes about half an hour, compared with the two hours it would take to walk one way.

But since Mr Li lives at the school, he must first pick up his pupils in the morning, then return alone in the evening, spending a total of two hours each day propelling the boat. "There has never been an incident. Everyone recognises that it is safe," he said.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 19, 2017, with the headline 'School principal's ferryman class act'. Print Edition | Subscribe