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Poor Beijing Uni Students Unable to Journey Home

In early spring, the barren campus of China Petroleum University is slipping into the dull period of school break.


The cold winds have gone, the trees are bare, and gone too are most of the students, heading home for Lunar New Year, the most important time of the year for family reunions.


But Tang Jiaguo chose to stay behind in Beijing, and for good reason.


The poor 20-year-old business management sophomore was waiting for part-time job offers, hoping to earn money to offset the cost of his education. Going home to spend time with his parents and his two sisters is something he just can't afford.


Tang's home is deep inside China's westernmost region of Xinjiang. To save on travel costs, he has to take slow trains, sitting on a hard-seat for three days and nights assuming traffic conditions are good, he said with a grin.


"I am OK with the travel. It's just that if I go home, I will lose the opportunity to earn some money," Tang said, as he walked out of the library, wearing a dark-green overcoat donated by college authorities.


Tang believes in an old proverb which says that if a couple (family) is impoverished, almost everything in the household is sad. "I can go home, but there are so many worries. The family is deep in debt to pay for my sisters' education, and I have my own living expenses in the next semester to worry about," he said.


About 7,000 poor students in Beijing's 14 universities cannot make it home for Lunar New Year, the China Foundation of Poverty Alleviation said.


Some are deterred by the cost of travel, while many others have to work during the vacation, to support themselves and, sometimes, their families.


The foundation recently polled 2,790 poor college students who chose to stay in Beijing and found that 77 percent of the respondents "deeply missed the family and would love to go home for a family reunion."


The survey also found that 35 percent of the polled students couldn't afford a ticket home. And around 70 percent said they would seek part-time jobs.


After conducting the survey, the poverty-relief agency decided to offer a helping hand. Through its fund-raising campaigns, 584 poor college students had each received 500 yuan (US$64) as home travel fees by January 21, said Huan Jing, a staff member with the foundation.


(Shanghai Daily February 15, 2007)

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