AFP | Getty Images
Wang Fuman, also known as ‘Frost Boy’, walks on the road in Ludian in China’s southwestern Yunnan province on January 12, 2018.
At an event organized by his charitable foundation on Sunday, Ma told a room of 80 entrepreneurs that establishing a network of boarding schools would improve education standards and save children from often difficult commutes.
“Many pupils have to climb mountains or take a boat to go to school. In my opinion, these kids should not be commuting between home and school every day — they should go to a boarding school,” Ma said in comments first cited by the South China Morning Post, which is owned by Alibaba.
The plight of China’s left-behind children rose to new prominence earlier in January after an image of eight-year-old boy, Wang Fuman, became an internet sensation. The child — deemed “Ice Boy” — had arrived at school with his hair and eyebrows covered in ice after walking for over an hour along treacherous mountain paths to get to school.
Ma said the image reminded him of a young girl he had seen making a similar commute more than 25 years ago in 1992.
“So many years have passed and the situation hasn’t changed,” he said. “It doesn’t mean that the authorities haven’t done anything about it, but that the resources can’t reach some remote places,” Ma said, according to SCMP.
He acknowledged the efforts of the Chinese government to improve education, but said that Chinese entrepreneurs could also do more by donating to their home provinces.
“I hope we entrepreneurs can push this plan to merge school resources. I encourage all of you to participate and make a contribution to your home provinces by building dormitories and donating school buses,” Ma said, according to the report.