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Italian teacher inspires students in rural China

It's been over a month since Lorenzo Pecoraro returned to north China's Tianjin Municipality after visiting an impoverished county in northwestern China, yet the memories of his unforgettable trip are unwilted.

Every time Lorenzo, who hails from Rome in Italy, talks about his indelible experiences, a visible delight adorns his face.

As part of efforts to introduce higher education resources in remote and poor areas of rural China, Tianjin University has been working with Tanchang County, Gansu Province, to help drive local education development since 2019.

A total of 12 classrooms have been set up in schools across the county, and teachers from Tianjin University volunteer to support teaching in those schools.

As a teacher who has been working in the School of Pharmaceutical Science and Technology, Tianjin University, for over two years, Lorenzo applied to join in the project.

"One could do many interesting activities with the children, such as drawing, collecting and observing elements of nature, like leaves, insects and bird feathers, and building nests for birds, to let them intriguingly learn simple concepts of biology," said Lorenzo. He has a rich experience in teaching biology to children in Italy.

"I would like to use my experience to teach children from poor rural areas of China. I believe that even attending a single event could be an inspiration for the child's future," he added.

Lorenzo said he has always been interested in China and read many books about Chinese history when he was in Europe, but knew very little about rural China.

In 2013, he met a Chinese professor at an international scientific meeting in Estonia and was later invited to work in southern China's Shenzhen.

Lorenzo has been living in China since 2014 and visited many places, including modern cities and small villages, over the past six years. "I am glad to say that now I know more about China."


Lorenzo learned that Tanchang County is rich in medicinal mushrooms, so he tailored a lecture for the students to discuss the nutritional value of fungi and shed light on the scientific research of medicinal mushrooms, ecological conservation and environmental protection. He aimed to spark the students' interest in biology.

At the very beginning, students were shy and did not dare to answer Lorenzo's questions. They also bravely raised their hands and interacted with the Italian teacher. However, his sense of humor and unique teaching methods won their hearts.

"Their enthusiasm to learn and explore new things, as well as their spirit, are the most powerful tools for the future development of the county," Lorenzo said.

Ren Xiang, an English teacher of the school, said this was the first time their students attended an onsite English lecture delivered by a foreign professor. "They concentrated on the lecture and showed great interest."

"Lorenzo's lecture is fun. I hope to be admitted to Tianjin University two years later and meet him there," said Yang Beining, a student.

Lorenzo said the three-day visit to the county was too short, and he hopes to come back again in the future. On his next visit, Lorenzo hopes to lead the students to collect soil and water samples, make animal and plant specimens and conduct scientific research together.

"We are touched by what Lorenzo has done for the students. We expect more foreign professors to join in China's education projects," said Li Xia, an official with Tianjin University.

"I want to make my contribution to help students in poverty-stricken areas experience higher education, in the hope that this could make their lives better," Lorenzo said.

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