China will provide students from poor families in acute poverty-stricken rural areas with free textbooks and exempt them from paying miscellaneous fees starting this year, Premier Wen Jiabao said Saturday in his government work report at its top legislature's annual session.
"Among them, the boarding students will receive living allowances," Wen said at the annual session of the National People's Congress (NPC).
The policy applies to 14 million rural students in the nine-year compulsory education stage in 592 counties designated as priorities of the state poverty-relief work, according to the report and other sources.
Starting from 2007, Wen said, all rural students will enjoy such benefits "so that all students from poor families are able to finish the compulsory education."
"We will genuinely make education a strategic priority," Wen said. "We will improve the mechanism to ensure funding for education, with government investment as the mainstay."
According to official statistics released in 2002, more than 72 percent of rural poor population were scattered in the 592 counties, all in the central and western regions.
(Xinhua News Agency March 5, 2005)