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Compulsory Education Enlightens Most Impoverished Region

A number of schools have been completed in Yanchi County in Northwest China's poorest region, Xihaigu, helping the area shakes off its reputation as lacking in educational opportunities.

Zhang Baiseng, secretary of Yanchi County committee of the Chinese Communist Party described the new schools as "unbelievable."

Students are reading aloud their textbooks in the spacious and bright classrooms. In their cozy, heating-equipped dormitories, beautiful clean bed sheets are tidily laid on beds," he said.

The official said the construction was funded by the central government.

Located in the southern part of Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, Xihaigu, a general designation of Xiji and Haiyuan counties and Guyuan City, with 2.3 million inhabitants, is one of China's poorest regions.

The bad economic situation affects local education, and the lack of education hinders the economic growth in the area.

However, the long-term poverty-alleviation program, in addition to China's striking development of the western part of the country, has basically solved the food and shelter problems for people of Xihaigu, said Zhang.

Now the central government is investing heavily in education in the poverty-stricken area.

Yanchi County has increased its investment in compulsory education by an average of 16.7 percent during the past three years. More than 30,000 students have received their nine-year primary and junior high education without any charge.

Ma Fu, mayor of the city of Guyuan, said all the other places in Xihaigu are speeding up their paces in popularizing compulsory education.

Ma said the central government will invest another 500 million yuan (about US$60 million) in the region so that students will receive nine-year compulsory education by 2007.

(Xinhua News Agency October 29, 2004)

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