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Students in Quake-hit Sichuan Start New Semester

Primary and middle school students in some areas affected by the May 12 earthquake in southwest China's Sichuan Province marked the start of their new semester on Wednesday.

Thousands of pupils in Beichuan and Anxian, the worst-hit counties, returned to their schools for registration to make up classes halted by the devastating quake that killed nearly 70,000.

"The country has exempted me tuition fees and I only need to pay 135 yuan (about US$20) for notebooks and accommodation," said Chen Wen, a primary school pupil in Anchang Town, Anxian County. His classrooms were being held in temporary houses.

In Anxian, 68 schools, also in temporary structures, which boast 6,066 classrooms have been put into use, according to Li Shunhong, the county's education official.

In Chenjiaba Town of Beichuan, about 700 primary school students returned to schools which were still standing following the quake.

"The 500 middle school students of our town will be transferred to Guixi and Beichuan middle schools for study," said Zhao Qinghai, the town's Communist Party chief.

The hard-hit area has about 3.2 million primary and middle school students, according to the Sichuan Education Department. About 19 percent will resume classes in temporary structures or tents, the department said.

More than 11,000 schools in Sichuan needed to be rebuilt or repaired, according to provincial authorities. The construction of permanent school buildings had started in certain areas with donated funds.

Official figures showed the 8.0-magnitude quake had left 69,225 dead and 17,923 missing in Sichuan and its neighboring areas.

(Xinhua News Agency August 20, 2008)

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