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Rural Children to Have Easier Access to Information

China has made significant achievements in protecting and promoting the development of children. However, the country still faces severe challenges, according to Gnilane Senghor, UNICEF representative and senior programme officer in China.

The lack of information is one major problem, according to a UNICEF report on the State of the World's Children which was released in Shanghai on Friday.

The report pointed out that Internet users in China have increased from 620,000 in 1997 to over 87 million today, making the country second only to the United States in Internet user numbers.

Yet, for the more than 60 percent of China's population that is based in rural areas it is estimated they have access to only 0.8 percent of total Internet connections.

"With information and communication technology such an integral part of education today, this digital divide will impact heavily on the development potential of China's children," said Senghor.

To change the situation, Citigroup on Friday granted US$230,000 to initiate a twin schools program that will upgrade the quality of basic education for around 10,000 children in west China and help reduce east-west urban-rural disparities.

UNICEF and the National Center for Educational Technology (NCET) will use the money to establish IT links between eight schools in more developed cities such as Shanghai and Guangzhou in south China's Guangdong Province, and 50 schools in west China's rural areas.

Participating schools will have technology integrated into their curricula and will eventually make an important transition from teacher-centred to learner-centred instruction in child friendly learning environments, according to NCET Deputy Director Wang Zhuzhu.

She also said in the coming years, China will inject 10 billion yuan (US$1.2 billion) into distance education, 10 billion yuan into building schools in poor areas and huge sums have already been earmarked by the government for developing the teaching force.

(China Daily December 11, 2004) 

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