Xinlan Ma (China)



10 years later:

On 25th August 2015, in the office of Weizhou Ethnic Kindergarten, Weizhou, Tongxin County, Ningxia, Ma Xinlan talked to Lau Kin Chi about her long experience of being a teacher in the Chinese Muslim community and a problematic traditional perception of the role of a girl in Chinese Muslim families. (English subtitles is available now.)


Ma Xinlan was born in a Muslim family in Weizhou Town, Tongxin County of Ningxia Province. During 37 years of her teaching career, Ma Xinlan devoted herself to the education of local Muslim girls, enabling them to acquire knowledge and life skills, and contribute to the society by their own strength. She has changed the culture of local education. Now all local girls strive to learn, be self-reliant, and even become leaders in various industries. More and more people support the development of hometown education and public welfare undertakings in her appeal.

For her brilliant contribution, she was awarded the Outstanding Communist Party Member, Woman Pace-setter, the Blazer of Muslim Girls’ Education, Ten Outstanding Women in Asia, the National May 1 Labour Medal, etc.

After her retirement, she joined in the left-behind children education as the principal of Weizhou Ethnic Kindergarten, which was founded by her student Wang Dongmei. In 2015, she was elected as one of Special Contribution Figures of the Year of Devotion to Homeland by China Devotion to Homeland Cultural Development Association.


I have tried to use my own example to educate and inspire children and their parents. The force of knowledge is great and I hope to change the extent of poverty in my home village through knowledge.”

Ma Xinlan started her career as a teacher in 1971. Since 1985 she has been the headmistress of Weizhou Hui Women’s Primary School. She and five other teachers established the school, a significant step in a region that has been slow to offer education to women, particularly those of national minorities.

Ma Xinlan was born in 1952 into a Muslim family in Weizhou, Tongxin County, Ningxia Autonomous Region. According to the local conditions and customs, it was difficult for girls to go to school. But the appearance of a young woman teacher changed Ma’s destiny. Ma not only went to school as she wished, but also decided to become a teacher. In 1965 she completed her primary school education. At the time, only four girls in the township had finished primary school. Ma was accepted by Tongxin County Middle School with high scores. However, because the villages in the poor mountainous area where she lived were affected by the Cultural Revolution, she had to leave the school for the poor yellow earth at home. Fortunately, her strong wish to teach resulted in her getting a job as a village teacher in 1971, when positions were available in the county. She was 19 that year. In 1985, under the auspices of local religious individuals and the education department, the Weizhou Hui Women’s Primary School, which had been disbanded 30 years earlier, was re-established. Ma, who had 14 years of teaching experience, was assigned to be the headmistress of the school, an important step in a region known for its bad educational standards for minority women. The percentage of Muslim girls who attended school was less than 20, and those who quit after the third or fourth grade was 80 percent. For many years Ma advised and persuaded them to stay and her efforts paid off, with the percentages going up (98 percent, and 95 percent remaining in school). Girls were given vocational training as well. For Ma this is a labour of love.

Weizhou Hui Women’s Primary School

Eastern Asia | China