This Tibetan medical student hikes up a snowy mountain every day so she can find enough phone signal to attend classes that are now being carried out online only because of the coronavirus outbreak.
The 20-year-old named Silang Bazhen lives in a remote village in the city of Qamdo, which is in Tibet Autonomous Region in south-western China.
She is a first-year student at Jiangsu Food and Pharmaceutical Science College in East China, but the school has been shut since the Chinese New Year holidays amid fears that classes may help spread COVID-19.
Since 17th February, Silang Bazhen’s school has been offering classes online, allowing students to attend live-streamed lessons.
When she was unable to find any cell signal at home, Silang Bazhen climbed the mountain next to her home and discovered a suitable location about 600 metres (2,000 feet) away.
The daily journey across the snow- and boulder-covered terrain to a specially marked rock takes 30 minutes each way, she revealed.
Pictures taken by her little brother show her sitting on the rock with a notebook while holding her mobile phone to see and hear the lesson in real time.
In minus 3 degrees Celsius weather, she takes lessons for four hours at a time.
Silang Bazhen, who is the eldest of four children and the first in her family to have any form of tertiary education, told local media: “The signal isn’t very good in my hometown, so I have to go up a mountain to attend online courses.
“I was worried I’d miss too many classes and fall behind my classmates.
“Although it’s difficult, it’s quiet on the mountain, so it’s a good learning environment.
“It is worth it to achieve my dream of becoming a doctor.”
On 25th February, a day after the images appeared online, local officials sent staff from telecommunications companies China Tower and China Mobile to Silang Bazhen’s village.
Technicians travelled a reported seven hours from regional capital Lhasa to reach her, bringing equipment and material to test existing cell towers.
They provided her with a new phone and SIM card, allowing her to access the remote courses from her home.
They are also in the process of building a 4G cellular tower which will provide high speed internet coverage to the area, which sits at an elevation of 3,400 metres (11,150 feet) above sea level.
According to Jiangsu Food and Pharmaceutical Science College, Silang Bazhen is among more than 2,000 students from Tibet and Qinghai in China’s furthest western regions.
Many have been allowed to miss remote classes due to a lack of technical means in their hometowns. They will catch up on the courses when government guidelines change and students are allowed to return to schools.
A school spokeswoman said 961 students in rural regions have been provided with free data to attend courses online.
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