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China to Improve School Conditions in Poor Regions

Xinhua News Agency, December 11, 2013 Adjust font size:

Zhang Shengli is optimistic about the future of the school he built in north China's Hebei Province after hearing a central government announcement on improving school conditions in China's poverty-stricken areas

"We will have a 1300-square-meter classroom building with computers in every classroom. And we will even have our own school bus," said Zhang, vice president of Dongtuanbao central primary school in Hebei's Laiyuan County, as he imagined the school's future.

According to a document unveiled on Dec. 4, China will move to improve basic schooling conditions for compulsory education in poverty-stricken areas.

"Schools in poor areas are a weak link in China's education cause," said a statement released after an executive meeting of the State Council, the country's cabinet, which was presided over by Premier Li Keqiang.

Central and provincial governments will adjust the structure of education expenditures to improve weak links in compulsory education in poor areas, according to the statement.

In three to five years, school buildings must meet safety requirements, such as earthquake resistance and fire control standards. Facilities should be able to meet basic education and living needs, and the quality of teachers should meet the basic needs of compulsory education.

Improvement of rural education is essential to overcome poverty, the document said.

Laiyuan county is one of the poorest areas in the country. The average per capita income in Dongtuanbao town is only 1800 yuan (US$296.3), according to Zhang Changle, the head of the town.

Zhang Shengli built the Dongtuanbao central primary school in 1997 after he graduated from Shanghai Normal University with financial help from the country's Hope Project.

Zhang was among the first 13 students to benefit from the Hope Project, which was launched in 1989 by the China Youth Development Foundation (CYDF) and the Central Committee of the Communist Youth League of China to help children in poverty-stricken areas gain greater access to education.

After his graduation, Zhang gave up the opportunity to stay in the big city and came back to his hometown to provide better education conditions for the children there.

The school now has 427 students and 36 teachers. It has 12 teaching locations near several villages for students whose homes are far away from the central school.

"Education should be considered the top priority for the development of poor regions," said Zhang Shengli. "Knowledge can change destiny. It's the hope for the children here."

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