Xie Xu, an 18-year-old high school student in China, has gone above and beyond the call of friendship for his fellow student, 19-year-old Zhang Chi: For the last three years, the student has carried his disabled classmate to and from school and around campus. Zhang suffers from muscular dystrophy, a condition that weakens skeletal muscle over time and hinders movement. According to Shanghaiist, Xie began carrying Zhang on his back when Zhang entered Daxu High School in Xuzhou city as a first year student. Xie estimates that he carries Zhang on his back a dozen times a day or more, a pace he has kept going for more than 200 days a year.
Touching images of Xie carrying Zhang around school have become popular on Chinese social media. In addition to helping his friend get around, Xie also retrieves meals for Zhang and helps him with laundry. Guo Chunxi, the vice headmaster at the students’ high school says in The Shanghaiist:
The story of the two students is so inspiring and touching. They aren't family, but [Xie] has been doing this for three years. He's the most beautiful student. He also exerts positive influence on other students, who readily help Zhang. With their assistance, Zhang has never missed out on one single class.
There is a certain bittersweet quality to the fact that Xie and Zhang, who are the top students in their class, may have to part ways soon as they move forward in their academic careers. Xie interviewed for the Nanjing Polytechnic Institute in late-April, and Zhang will sit for his college entrance exams in about six weeks.
Xie and Zhang both seem like amazing people, and their story is a moving example of young people looking out for each other. But, as Adam Withnall points out in The Independent, it also brings into relief the greater problem of access to education for people with disabilities in China. A recent report on human rights in China from the US Department of State found that “Nationwide, an estimated 243,000 school-age children with disabilities did not attend school.” A 2013 report from Human Rights Watch found that while the Chinese government has vowed to promote education for children with disabilities, some “schools deny these students admission, pressure them to leave, or fail to provide appropriate classroom accommodations to help them overcome barriers related to their disabilities.” While Zhang, with Xie’s help, has been able to excel in school despite his physical impairment, it’s discouraging to consider how many students fall behind due to a lack of similar aid.
Images: The Independent/Twitter; Imgur