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Death of French teacher in China sparks extensive mourning
Last Updated(Beijing Time):2008-12-22 09:36

Mourners gathered in a remote south China county on Saturday to mourn a French woman who had sponsored local education for ten years and died in a fire.

Francoise Grenot-Wang, aged 59, died in a fire in her wooden house on Dec. 9, in the Miao Autonomous County of Rongshui in south China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region.

Police identified a body in the debris as hers and further investigation is underway, police said.

Madame Grenot-Wang gave herself the Chinese name "Fang Fang". She arrived at the small county in 1997 as a guide of French organization Doctors Without Borders. She found the children, especially girls, lacked education and decided to stay.

Since then, the name Fang Fang had been on the lips of local people.

During the ten years, 5,775 school-age children had received her help and more than 15 million yuan (about 2.2 million U.S. dollars) had been donated to build new schools and buy books with the efforts of Fang Fang, said the local authorities.

A teacher named Gun Mingrong said, "Fang Fang had sponsored many school-age girls who cannot afford tuition. They call her 'Mom Fang'."

"She was the most close person in the girls' hearts," Gun said.

The vice president of Danian Village Junior Middle School namedWei Yucheng said, "Fang asked us to find every school-age child and walked door to door to talk to each family."

"She tried a lot to help each child to go back to school," he said.

Having climbed over mountainous areas, Fang Fang had worn out more than 20 pairs of shoes in these years.

Many local people said that they would build a monument for heron the site of the wooden house.

Fang Fang liked the local culture. She had learned the language of Miao and Tong ethnics, and founded an organization call Couleurs de Chine (Chinese Colors).

A member of the organization, Patrick Nicolas, hurried from neighbouring Guangdong Province to the county after the incident.

"We feel so depressed because she has gone," Nicolas said. "Butthe sponsor projects will continue."

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