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Xiaolei (center) with his classmates at Jilin Orphan School in Changchun, Jilin province. Ji Wang and Luo Hao/For China Daily

Abandonment and bereavement have proved no obstacles as plucky youngster restarts school

A 12-year-old orphan, whose story of strength has touched millions online, started a new chapter in his life last week when he was enrolled at boarding school.

Xiaolei (not his real name) became a hot topic on the internet after a video emerged of him obtaining his father"s death certificate at a police station in Changchun, Jilin province, on Nov 17.

His father died in late October, and he needed the document to apply for a place at Jilin Orphan School. However, netizens - and people involved in handling his case - were moved by his stoic attitude.

"I"ve never seen a boy come alone for such a thing in my 13-year career," said police officer Zhao Jianjie, who was on duty on Nov 17 when the boy picked up the certificate. "As a mother, I was moved by his bravery.

"It was obvious he needed help, but he never showed emotion."

On Nov 20, Xiaolei started classes at his new school after the local community rallied around to support him.

"I have three half-brothers, age 45, 43 and 41," he told China Daily. "They are living in difficult conditions, and I don"t want to become a burden to them. So I chose the orphan school for a chance to study."

He said his father ran a welding repair shop until rheumatoid arthritis, tracheitis and emphysema forced him to give up work in 2012. After that, he relied on relatives and local government allowances.

Xiaolei"s mother left in 2014. "I will never forget the date: Oct 19. Even though I had a high fever, my mother walked out without saying goodbye," he said, adding that his father had also been left virtually bedridden six months later in a traffic accident.

It meant the boy was forced to juggle his studies at Qinghua Shiyan Middle School with caring for his father, who passed away of heart failure age 65 on Oct 20.

However, despite the challenging circumstances, he was a remarkable student, according to Liu Lijie, his middle school principal.

"Xiaolei consistently ranked top in his class, despite the time and energy he spent caring for his father," he said, although he added that the boy sometimes had to ask for days off.

With support from the city"s civil affairs bureau, Jilin Orphan School fast-tracked Xiaolei"s application so he could resume his studies as soon as possible.

"He has been assigned to a new class, and a dormitory has been arranged," said Gao Shufan, director of the school"s admission office. "We will provide a guarantee for Xiaolei"s life and studies."