03-11-2007 09:20

Last year, the government scrapped all tuition fees for rural students in 12 western provinces. And starting this year, all children in rural China will enjoy free 9-year compulsory education. Mao Xuzhi takes us to Gansu Province in the northwest to find out how this policy benefits children, their families, and the countryside.

2006 will be remembered by Qi Qin and her family, as it marked the start of her free education.

Qi Qin's dad, a farmer from Tianzhu county, Gansu Province, said, "We paid 300 yuan less than previous years. We can use the money to buy at least 4 bags of fertilizer. In addition, the government waived farmers' agricultural tax. All this greatly relieves our financial burdens."

Qin's parents said in addition to tuition fees, the government also provides free textbooks to the 14 year-old. This saves the struggling family 30 percent of its annual income.

Qin is just one of the 150 million rural students to benefit from the government's new policy. They make up 80 percent of the country's primary and junior high school students.

One of the direct results of the policy has been an immediate decrease in the number of dropouts. At the Dachaigou Junior High School, 14 needy students returned to school last spring semester.

And school staff say being freed from collecting a range of fees gives them more time to concentrate on their teaching.

Jia Shengzhong, headmaster of Dachaigou Middle School, Tianzhu county, said, "Now we don't have to worry about education fees. And we can concentrate on the promotion of teaching quality as well as academic research."

For the students in poverty, the government also provides a lodging allowance. Children at this boarding school say though the annual 240 yuan subsidy isn't all that much, it helps them to continue their studies.

And officials believe the policy will have a long-term bearing on local development.

Zhang Yanbao, chief of Tianzhu county, said, "We encourage all kids to go to school, because we know they are the guarantee of our future talents. Only with talents can we have a reliable basis for further economic growth."

The free-education policy has given Qin great hopes for the future. Her dream of going to university, just like her urban peers, has just gotten closer.


Editor:Liu Fang