Education lights up lives of herders' children

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Dorgar Tso, a 10-year-old student, returned to campus during summer vacation to meet and play with her schoolmates and teachers one last time. She was sad to bid them farewell, but she will soon go to another school to further her studies.

Dorgar Tso studies at the Hequmachang primary school, a village boarding school for grades one to three, in Maqu County of Gannan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in northwest China's Gansu Province.

Located on the eastern edge of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau with an average elevation of 3,700 meters, the county has a population of about 57,000, about 75 percent of whom are herders.

At the Hequmachang primary school, there are a total of 39 students. Among them, 37 live on campus as most of them are children of herders.

Summer vacation is a little bit lonely for many pupils there, as they have to travel with their families to graze their animals on the vast grassland, and cannot see their friends frequently.

"I prefer to stay at school because I can attend classes, do homework with my classmates, and the meals really taste good," said Dorgar Tso.

"Students here are exempt from the meals, lodging and basic school expenses. We provide comfortable dorms and nutritious meals for them," said Kalrang, headmaster of the primary school.

Kalrang said great changes have taken place since favorable education policies rolled out in the pasturing areas and he saw more and more herders send their children to schools. Local herders now attach greater importance to their children's education.

"But in the past, children of herders seldom attend school. They learned to herd or did household chores from a very early age, and finally became herders like their parents," said Kalrang.

School facilities in the pasturing areas have also seen great improvement in recent years, said Kalrang, who has worked in the fields for over a decade.

"In the chilly winter, teachers used to get up early to burn firewood in the classroom to keep students warm. Nowadays, they study in multi-media classrooms, eat in clean canteens, and play at well-equipped playgrounds," Kalrang said.

Yeshe Lhamo is a teacher at the primary school. To take better care of the students, 13 teachers at the school live on campus as well.

"I'm their teacher in class, and we are good friends after class," said Yeshe Lhamo, who was born into a herding family. Her father sent her and four other siblings to school. She returned to the grassland after graduating from college, hoping to help more children there receive a better education.

"Education truly changed my life and broadened my horizons. I always share my experience with my students' parents," said Yeshe Lhamo.

"The education policies are very helpful, and we now understand the importance of education, which can help our children live better lives," said Gyasto, a local herder.

There are 10 village schools across Maqu County, and all school-age children from herding families are enrolled in schools, according to statistics from the county's education department. 

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