Humble China street vendor makes sacrifices to support academically gifted daughters who gain PhD and master’s degree, goes viral


By Fran Lu

Mother sells roasted sweet potatoes, wears broken 5-yuan glasses. Encourages daughters to study hard, they achieve academic excellence. — SCMP

A street hawker in China who made many sacrifices to pay for the education of her two daughters has been richly rewarded after they both excelled academically.

Zhang Bingbing, who was recently accepted as a PhD candidate at Dalian University of Technology in Liaoning province, northeastern China, said she was the first student in her village to be accepted by a 985 university.

In China, only the best 39 universities belong to the 985 project, which is a government scheme to create world-class higher education institutions. Fewer than 2% of candidates gain entrance to them.

Zhang said she is most grateful to her mother, and her parents were so proud of her that they could not sleep the day they learned about her achievement.

Zhang’s older sister also has a master’s degree.

The parents pulled out all the stops to provide a top-level education and their expectations were exceeded. Photo: Weibo

The younger sister said when they were growing up in a rural location in central China’s Henan province, her family was poor and their father went to a big city to work.

Their mother, who stopped studying after graduating from primary school, makes a living by selling roasted sweet potatoes on the street.

She constantly encouraged her two daughters to “study hard”.

Zhang said her family was once so poverty-stricken that her mother struggled to pay a 30-yuan (US$4) tuition fee.

She saved all her earnings for her daughters’ tuition and took very little for herself – even wearing a pair of broken glasses that she had bought for 5 yuan (70 US cents).

Zhang was accepted by a key secondary school in her hometown, but she chose to study at a vocational secondary school because it offered her a scholarship.

She kept her promise to study hard and ended up taking a physics degree at Northeastern University in Shenyang, Liaoning province, which is also a 985 school.

Zhang funded her own studies throughout university to “reduce the burden” on her parents. She worked part-time as a graduate entrance examination tutor, for which she earned 200 to 300 yuan (US$28 to US$40) an hour.

She said her parents earn 100 yuan a day each.

Zhang’s mother lived a frugal life and sold street food so that her daughters could have a better life. Photo: Weibo

The considerate daughter expressed her gratitude by taking her parents on trips and helping with her mother’s street snack business whenever she was home.

She said on her Douyin account @Daqiya: “I stand on my parents’ shoulders, and see a bigger world they have never seen. The meaning of working hard is to become stronger so that they can rely on me.”

Last year, many people on mainland social media were deeply moved by the story of a sanitation worker who waited for her son while he was taking his university entrance exams, and gave him the only bottle of water she had when he came out.

The mother later refused many requests to donate money to the family, saying she and her husband were still young and could afford to pay for their son’s tuition. – South China Morning Post

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