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'One College Student for Each Village' Project in Dilemma

A scheme aiming to educate rural young people so that they can help develop their home villages is apparently experiencing difficulties, as the great majority of its graduates in the northern province of Hebei have been unable to find work in their local areas as planned.


At least 90 percent of the “one college student for each village” project’s first batch of 201 students who graduated from the Agricultural Development College (ADC) in July have not found local farming jobs.


An ADC investigation found that another 20 percent were working in cities, whilst the rest are unemployed. The college is affiliated to Hebei Agricultural University, which designed and piloted the initiative.


Under the terms of their two-year training, targeting those who have failed college entrance examinations and ex-servicemen and women, graduates from the scheme are not supposed to seek work outside their home counties for five years after completing the course.


Through their involvement in local agriculture, they would then help and guide farmers in developing farming in their area.


Pang Xiaofang is still unemployed in Cixian County after graduating from ADC in July: “I still have not found anything suitable for me to do in my village although I spent over 10,000 yuan (about US$1,238) for the two years of study.”


She said that in October the county agricultural bureau called together all 13 of the project’s graduates living there to reiterate that they were only allowed to look for employment in the local area for the next five years.


Those who had still not found suitable work were encouraged to run stores selling agricultural equipment.

But Pang said it would cost several 10,000 yuan (about US$1,238) to open such a store, which she could not finance and which local banks were unwilling to lend to her.

Li Da, another ADC graduate, said, “Chinese yams are expected to be popular in years to come. But I have to spend about 100,000 yuan (about US$12,380) if I plant them. It is impossible for me to get this sum of money without bank loans.”


“Students can earn at least 800-1,000 yuan (about US$99-US$1,238) a month if they work in cities,” said Wang Chunfeng, director of the Technique Station of Daming County’s agricultural bureau.


“Governments do not have much energy and time to bring suits against students if they break their contracts,” Wang said, adding that governments do not even know where students are if they look for jobs outside their own county.


ADC Vice President Zhang Yuchun said the college had no role in finding graduates employment, and the college suggested local governments could appoint them as assistant directors of village committees and even promote them to township leaders if they made outstanding achievements.


Jiang Haikui, director of Huailai County’s Agricultural Affairs Committee, said “it is difficult to give these graduates special treatment when many students graduating from regular universities also face difficulties finding jobs after graduation.”


The Ministry of Education extended the “one college student for each village” scheme across the country last year using distant learning technology to give access to those who want to remain available for work on their farms whilst studying.


But the ADC expressed concerns that teaching methods may be inconsistent and the quality of education patchy.

(China.org.cn by Unisumoon December 19, 2005)

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