Jan. 22 (UPI) — One of China’s richest men is calling on his fellow entrepreneurs to support the welfare of rural schoolchildren after a photo of a frozen Chinese boy went viral.
Jack Ma, founder of Alibaba Group, said facilities like dormitories should be built to house children who live far from school, the South China Morning Post reported Monday.
“Many pupils have to climb mountains or take a boat to go to school. In my opinion, these kids should not be commuting between home and school every day — they should go to a boarding school,” Ma said.
The tech entrepreneur also said smaller schools should close if they lacked the means to subsidize their students.
Ma, who built a fortune in China but had humble beginnings as an English teacher, said he is passionate about education.
“A country’s education is strong only as long as its rural education is developed, just as a country is rich only as long as its farmers are rich,” he said. “To measure a country’s education sector, you can’t look at its best universities, but look at its worst schools.”
Ma encouraged top Chinese business executives, including Beijing property manager Feng Lun, Yu Feng of Yunfeng Capital and Giant Interactive Chairman Shi Yuzhu, to donate and “make a contribution to your home provinces by building dormitories and donating school buses.”
The debate over rural poverty began after Jan. 8, when a teacher photographed “Ice Boy” Little Wang after he had arrived at school with swollen hands and frost on his hair, according to the BBC.
China News Service agency had reported the boy walked 2.8 miles to get to school.
Photos showed the boy being laughed at by classmates, although he later scored 99 out of 100 on a test despite his condition.
Little Wang is reportedly a “left-behind child” whose father migrated to the city to earn income.
He is currently living in Yunnan Province with this grandmother and sister, according to reports.