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Interboxes: Building Mobile Interactive Schools for Rural Kids

By: Leora Eisenberg

· Asia,Education,Youth

In Jiaying’s WeChat profile avatar, there is a little girl in a blue dress. It’s not clear what the girl is doing in the photo but you can almost hear Jiaying sigh as she describes her. “Jasmine* was practically mute when I met her for the first time. Very cute, but she really didn’t talk.”

At the ripe age of 20, Liu Jiaying, founded Interboxes—an NGO with a goal to make education more accessible to children in rural areas in China. It all started in 2014 when she heard that there were many rural elementary schools where students need to walk long, dangerous paths to get to class. She was asked by a public benefit program to create a mobile school for them. “I didn’t realize how difficult it was,” she said.

Six months later, true to her word, she was able to create a mobile school. But because she grew up not far from Beijing, she didn’t really know what children in the countryside needed. In order to build more mobile schools, she would have to visit these children and find out. “My first visit to the countryside was really difficult,” she admits. Jiaying visited for the first time in 2015, and has visited multiple times since.

Liu Jiaying and the children from rural China during her immersion trip.

Photo from Interboxes WeChat page

On each trip, she learned more and more about the needs of the communities she was serving. On her first trip, she met Jasmine, the girl in her avatar. On a subsequent trip, Jiaying started paying more attention to her, and learned that she got poor grades in addition to not speaking. Jasmine just wasn’t interested in school. The young CEO admits that this is the case for many young children in rural China.

Whenever people tell Jiaying that she should just give them supplies, rather than building them mobile libraries and schools, she gets frustrated. “Giving them objects is easy,” she admitted. “But you want to give them a better education. You have to know what they really need — and how they can really succeed.”

Interboxes' mobile school being delivered in rural part of China.

Photo from Interboxes

Interboxes' mobile school being installed in rural part of China.

Photo from Interboxes

With that, Interboxes has built various mobile schools, dorms, and libraries throughout the provinces of Szechuan, Guizhou, Yunan, Liaoying, and Hubei. This is a lot of progress over such a short period of time. But for Jiaying, it isn’t enough. “We are providing an education product,” she stresses. “We don’t just teach or build, we want to train their mind.” She also brainstorms new technologies and ideas. “These mobile schools need to be more interesting so that kids will want to play with them,” she says. “We need more video resources, too.”

Children exploring the books inside the mobile library of Interboxes.

Photo from Interboxes WeChat page

Child smiling outside the mobile school of Interboxes.

Photo from Interboxes

Her job isn’t easy. Making school accessible to children in rural China is beyond most people’s wildest dreams. But Jiaying is ready to do it for the sake of students like Jasmine. “Every child has a dream,” she says. “And whether she is poor or not, we need to help her get there.”

* = name has been changed

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