SHIJIAZHUANG, June 27 (Xinhua) -- Tong Tong is confined to her sickbed with critical brain injuries at a time when her peers are cramming for tests and looking forward to six weeks of summer vacation.
The nine-year-old from north China's Hebei Province suffered a brain hemorrhage following alleged beatings from her teacher at a private school in the suburbs of Beijing. The incident has shocked China and aroused concerns over supervision of private schools.
Two weeks into hospital, Tong Tong still has a high fever. In fits of acute headache, she bangs her head with her fists, trying desperately to stop the pain.
Her mother, Zhang Xuemei, never expected the girl could have been abused by a teacher she trusted. Zhang Hongxia, 52, promised to take charge of the child and teach her Chinese classics and philosophy, subjects beloved by Zhang Xuemei.
"I was so proud of my daughter," Zhang Xuemei told Xinhua. "She could recite long lines from Chinese classic primers when she was barely two years old."
When Tong Tong was a preschooler, her mother taught her about the works of ancient philosophers including Confucius and Mencius.
In February, her mother forced her to quit school in order to attend Zhang Hongxia's private tutorial class. Zhang said she would teach Chinese classics on the virtue of women.
"I've read these classics myself and believe they are must-read books for girls," said Zhang Xuemei.
She trusted Zhang Hongxia because the woman ran another charity campaign to offer free meals to over-70s in her home village of Wangchangxiang in Xingtai City. "She seemed like such a loving person, and I hoped Tong Tong would grow up to be like her."
The two Zhangs got to know each other via an online forum on Chinese classics. Both are natives of Hebei Province, heightening how close they felt to each other.
So Zhang Xuemei put her daughter under Zhang Hongxia's custody, without checking for herself what kind of school she was running.
The girl was taken to Zhang's home-run class in Beijing's outer Shunyi District. For three months, the mother and daughter did not meet.
On May 26, Zhang Xuemei received a call from the teacher. She was told Tong Tong had a skin disease and needed medication.
When she hurried to the private school about 40 km northeast of Beijing's capital international airport, Zhang found her daughter in a feeble condition, with bruises everywhere.
"She told me Zhang beat her constantly and knocked her head on walls. I found later her collarbone was broken," said the tearful mother. "She was even forced to eat stool."
Beijing police detained Zhang Hongxia on May 30. She admitted to maltreating the child.
Police have launched an investigation into the case.
Zhang Hongxia was also found to have posted Tong Tong's photos on the web, with captions indicating she was an abandoned child and needed cash donations.
Tong Tong was sent to a hospital in her home city Baoding. After two weeks of treatment, her condition has not improved. Besides the hemorrhage, her psychological trauma was also to blame for her symptoms, according to Tong Tong's doctor, Lu Kewen.
"She will need further medication at a better hospital in Beijing," said Zhang Xuemei.
When Tong Tong recovers, Zhang said she will send her back to a public school. "I'll still teach her classics, but I will not blindly trust anyone any more."
As an increasing number of Chinese people are hoping to revive ancient traditions, private tutorials on classics are mushrooming in many cities. Some are full-time workshops, while others teach only on weekends and holidays. Classrooms are found in diverse settings from homes and office buildings to temples.
"Some of these classes are not properly licensed, while others are simply registered as consulting companies," said Prof. Zhang Congjun, a liberal arts specialist at Shandong University of Art and Design.
Despite her alleged abusive behavior, Zhang Hongxia's private school is licensed, ironically, as a charity program under her non-governmental organization which she claims promotes public welfare for children and the elderly.
"Though it's good for children to study classics and traditions, parents must be rational while making choices," said Prof. Zhang.