Fate surprised a girl named Han Xueyi, born in a remote village in the southern province of Hainan, who found that she was to get a free education at a town school.
"I've never seen such a beautiful classroom or a computer. It's just like a dream," said Han, who's in the first year at a prefectural junior middle school.
The backer of the project is Wei Liucheng, secretary of the Hainan provincial committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC). Another 270 students like Han, including her two brothers, benefited from the project.
The project, called "education migration," is a new way for Hainan to support the poor. The government sent children from poor families in remote villages to towns, where tuition, housing and medical costs are paid by the government. Han's hometown is a pilot region for this experiment.
The uneven distribution of educational resources is a major cause of urban-rural disparities, said Tan Songhua, a research fellow of the Educational Development Research Center under the Ministry of Education and vice-chairman of the China Society of Education.
Tan said that Hainan's program was a good way for children to enjoy high quality educational resources.
Wei's favorite proverb is "knowledge changes one's fate". He was also born to a poor family, and his fate changed when he attended a school that was several miles away by foot.
In Wei's eye, the root cause of poverty results from unfavorable environment, out-dated means of production and poor education.
"Hainan is home for many families like Han's, with six members living on only a little field. You can lay roads to their doors, provide electricity for their houses or even upgrade their homes from huts to multi-story buildings. But such things can only improve their lives, not change the situation of poverty," Wei said.
"But if you send their children to better schools, their lives will be totally changed when some of them get to college or get jobs."
Hainan plans to offer places at town schools to more than 9,000 poor students. And by 2010, more than 40,000 students like Han will be on their way to a changing fate, according to Wei.
The government and society have made endeavors to get people out of poverty, although many fell back into poverty due to disasters or illness, said Shi Ying, a researcher of the northwest Shaanxi provincial Academy of Social Sciences.
About one-third of the provincial revenue has been put into compulsory education since 2003, and more than 1 billion yuan (about US$140.8 million) has been invested in tuition funds and rebuilding dangerous classrooms, said Wei. Villagers often say that the most beautiful local buildings are the schools.
Hainan was the first province that abolished tuition, in 2005, when its annual revenue was less than 10 billion yuan.
Last year, the no-tuition policy benefited about 150 million students and 7.8 million boarders from poor families across the country.
However, not every student is as lucky as Han. Many children in remote areas still cannot go to school because of poverty, researcher Shi Ying said. He said that the weak point of supporting the poor through education was the lack of qualified teachers in poor areas.
As Premier Wen Jiabao said in the Report on the Work of the Government delivered on Wednesday, the government will continue increasing regular expenditures for rural compulsory education. The government will also increase living allowances for poor rural students residing on campus.
Compared with Project Hope, which built many schools for rural areas, Hainan's new practice provides children with not only good classrooms but also better quality teachers, according to Yu Minhong, a member of the 11th National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) and an expert on English training.
Yu proposed to give full play to the role of non-governmental sector and provide qualified teachers to less-developed places like Hainan.
(Xinhua News Agency March 6, 2008)