A shocking photo of a young Chinese boy with a completely frozen head of hair has sparked a new debate about child poverty amongst the rural community. The 8-year-old child, dubbed “Ice Boy” was with swollen hands and frost on his hair and eyebrows as he attended school in Ludian County in the south-western province of Yunnan.
The state-run China News Service agency detailed that the boy walks a staggering 4.5 km (2.8 miles) in horrific conditions just to get to school; a journey that takes him an hour to complete. On the day the famed picture was taken, the temperature was -9C, the agency stated.
This boy walks to school alone in the freezing cold for 4.5 km on a mountainous track, while his parents are away from home working in the city. The trending photo of this Yunnan "ice boy" helps raise awareness on the conditions of China's rural "left-behind children." https://t.co/bIwuLPASzt
— Manya Koetse (@manyapan) January 10, 2018
The photo of “Little Wang” Wang Furman went viral on Monday and has sparked fresh debate over the need for more to be done to care for Chinese children from low-income families. The photo gained particular traction on Chinese social media site Weibo.
Many Weibo users posted messages recognizing Wang’s remarkable fortitude and perseverance. “This child knows that knowledge can change his fate,” one commented. Others, however, were more concerned for his wellbeing. “His frozen little red face and he’s wearing so little, he really looks pitiful,” another person wrote.
The boy was reportedly in good spirits when he arrived at the school on exam day. “It was the first day of the final exam, but when entering the classroom he pulled face, and everyone was amused,” said Fu Heng, the school’s headmaster.
Many others took the opportunity to criticize the government for their lack of action when it comes to providing basic care to the rural community. “What is the local Yunnan government doing about this?” one person asked.
Intrigued by the story of this brave young boy, journalists visited his home to see for themselves the living conditions he faces on a daily basis. “His home is made of mud and brick and is very dilapidated,” reporters from popular site Pear Video said, as reported by Channel News Asia.
Ok little #IceBoy from China whose photos went viral, has officially melted my heart.
He is a Legend. Incredible courage. He's so poor, he walks 4.5 kilometres to school arrives with frozen hair & swollen hands. Wang Does his final exam & he scores 99/100.https://t.co/LPgNsx2MUv pic.twitter.com/domejGmxaq
— Fereshta Kazemi (@FereshtaKazemi) January 12, 2018
It has also been reported that the boy’s parents are manual laborers who live and work in a different city, leaving Wang and his siblings to fend for themselves. Wang’s story has prompted a campaign in Chinese media for more to be done to help support the education and caregiving needs of these impoverished “left-behind” children.
A few local companies have already sought to respond to the story, offering their financial donations to ensure all children attending the school are provided with suitable clothing. Further financial aid has been offered to help the school upgrade its heating system.
But of those contributing to the conversation online, many have highlighted that the problem goes much further than this one “Ice Boy.”
“No-one knows how many poor children there are, helping one is only helping one,” one person noted, receiving 2,000 likes for their comment.
“As of January 12 at 16:00, the Communist Youth League of Yunnan Province, Yunnan Youth Development Foundation launched the “youth warm winter action” since the payment, Tencent music donations, bank transfer, CCB scanning payment, etc. raised a total of 2159100.58 yuan (Details of the donation list will be subsequently posted on the official website), the use of charitable donations will then be announced on the organization’s official website, Weibo and WeChat.”
In addition to the financial support that is pouring in for Wang and his family, the South China Morning Post reported Friday that the boy’s father has been offered a job in his hometown so he will no longer have to leave his family and work away from home.
When his Father recently returned home, he reportedly gifted Wang with 5 yuan as pocket money. The boy’s response? “I want to save it for treatment when my parents get sick.”
China is home to some 61 million “left-behind” children, equivalent to almost the entire population of Britain.