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Children in NW China's Quake Zone Look Ahead

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A red sun rises above horizon. In the morning glow, birds fly by an apple tree and a Tibetan cottage.

That is the picture 11-year-old Yu Yemei drew for this year's Children's Day. She named it "Future Home."

Yu's home, in a mountain town in northwest China's Qinghai Province, was shattered by a 7.1-magnitude earthquake on April 14. The entire town of Gyegu was completely flattened.

A total of 2,698 people were confirmed dead, with 270 still missing. Among the dead, 199 were primary and middle school students.

But like Yu, the majority of the 24,448 students in 63 damaged schools in the quake-hit Yushu prefecture survived. As a three-year recovery plan starts, children in Yushu are trying to look ahead.

While most Yushu schools closed for Children's Day, students in a couple of schools still opened on Tuesday celebrated the annual holiday with songs, dances and games with a quake twist.

In Yushu Red Flag Primary School, students at Yu's class pasted a whole wall at the back of their prefab classroom with colorful drawings on the subject of the quake with captions such as "Yushu no tears, Yushu hold on!" and "Thank you uncle soldiers! I feel grateful, I will work hard!"

More than 10,000 soldiers, police and medical workers from across the country poured into Yushu and fought biting cold, altitude sickness to save lives and property.

One month on, many still remain to participate in the reconstruction.

On Tuesday, more than 100 children of the Yushu School for Orphans were invited to a special Children's Day party at an army camp. Kids sang and danced with soldiers who helped build temporary shelters for the school.

"The earthquake destroyed our school. But so many soldiers and kind strangers came. They gave us food, and built classrooms for us," said Katsongdrolma, a student at the school.

After the quake struck, rescue forces were told to save children trapped in collapsed buildings first. And as the focus shifted to recovery, the rebuilding of schools topped the government agenda.

President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao visited the Yushu School of Orphans and consoled traumatized children.

"They all care for us dearly and we should in turn be brave and happy," Katsongjinpa, another orphan school child, said as she pulled a skateboard from under her bed in the dorm.

"It's a gift for me," she said. "I like skateboarding, though it is a boy's game and needs courage."

Yu, 11, said she felt grateful for the help from around the country.

"We received a lot of letters and greeting cards from children in other places. I am so encouraged," she said.

Yu said though images of the quake devastation still haunted her dreams she had decided to look beyond the bitter experience and study hard.

The local authorities sent hundreds of senior year high school students to campuses outside the Yushu quake zone to allow them to concentrate on study and be better prepared for college.

Late Monday, the first batch of 86 students returned to Yushu. They are expected to take the annual college entrance exam in prefab classrooms in early June.

Overall, the Ministry of Education will send 5,000 Yushu high school students to study in seven better-off provinces, municipalities across the country while reconstruction goes on.

Yu said she wanted to enter college so she could realize her dream.

"I used to dream of becoming a pop singer, but now I want to be a policewoman so I can build my hometown into a better place."

(Xinhua News Agency June 2, 2010)

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