Chinese college students want to do volunteer work and would not hesitate to help “elderly people who fall over in the street”, according to a report released on May 16.
The Report on the Development of Ideological and Political Education of Chinese College Students 2014 said 91.7 percent of Chinese college students are willing to take part in voluntary work including environmental protection, teaching in remote villages and earthquake relief. And 83.1 percent actually do volunteer work every year.
The report, by Wuhan University in Hubei province, is based on research from 30 universities across China. Wuhan University has published the report, sponsored by the Ministry of Education, annually since 2012.
The question of what is the right thing to do when an old person falls over in the street has been debated since an incident in 2006 when a man called Peng Yu helped an old woman who fell over in Nanjing, Jiangsu province. The woman later alleged that she was knocked down by Peng and asked him to compensate 40 percent of her medical costs after Peng escorted her to a hospital.
However, the report found that 91.6 percent of students who were surveyed said they would help an elderly person in these circumstances.
This issue came back into the news on May 14 when social media reported that a 74-year-old woman had to ask for help by saying, “I have health insurance” after she fell over in a subway station in Shenyang, Liaoning province.
Shen Zhuanghai, director of the Academy of Humanities and Social Sciences at Wuhan University, said the report showed that university students have inherited the “LeiFeng spirit”, named after a young People’s Liberation Army soldier who died in 1962 and has since become an icon of selfless service and devotion.
Shen said it has been found that students help each other as well as having a strong sense of social responsibility.
Li Ruixue, 19, a student at Beijing University of Chemical Technology, said she would ask professionals to help an elderly person up from a fall, rather than do so herself, because she lacks medical experience.
“I think the enthusiasm of college students to volunteer partly comes from university credit requirements, when voluntary work helps toward your final marks. It is not totally driven from the heart to help others,” said Li, from Shaanxi province.
“But I would like to try more, like the volunteers who help passengers at railway stations. I think their work is quite meaningful.”
Tao Chuanjin, director of the Research Center of Philanthropy and Social Enterprise at Beijing Normal University, also said people should not be too optimistic about the enthusiasm of college students to do volunteer work.
“Instead of questioning college students’ capabilities and the consistency of the voluntary work they do, I think we should be encouraging more college students into voluntary work,” said Tao.
“The next step would be helping them to be more professional in helping others by forming nongovernmental organizations or offering training.”