High schools in 12 more coastal Chinese cities will recruit students from Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region in the country's northwest, a regional official said on Tuesday.
Nur Bekri, Deputy Party Secretary of Xinjiang, said that cities in Guangdong, Jiangsu, Zhejiang and Fujian provinces will run special programs for students from Xinjiang with the approval of the Ministry of Education.
This means that a total of 24 cities in economically developed areas will have Xinjiang Classes, a program originally launched in 2000. With the expansion 5,000 students are expected to be able to enroll annually from 2007.
The program targets children of farming and herding families from Xinjiang's many ethnic minorities. The region lags behind the country's coastal areas in education because of relatively slow economic development.
Nur Bekri said the promotion of special school programs for Xinjiang children in economically developed cities is a significant step to boost the social development of the region.
Meanwhile, Project Hope announced that it has enabled more than 2.6 million dropouts in China's poorer rural areas to return to school and continue their education since its launch in October 1989.
Tu Meng, Deputy Secretary-General of the China Youth Development Foundation (CYDF), said a total of 11,000 Project Hope primary schools have been set up in the countryside since the first one opened in eastern Anhui Province.
The project also plans to fund 15,000 students from migrant worker families in 27 cities like Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen and Nanjing to go to school during the second half of this year.
The project has improved education conditions in China's poorest areas and provided opportunities to millions of school-age children, according to statistics from CYDF.
China faces serious challenges in providing universal education to its population of 1.3 billion and particularly to its rural population despite steady progress over recent years.
In some outlying regions, including many areas inhabited by ethnic minorities, many children of needy families still cannot afford to go to school and every year about one million pupils drop out to help support their family.
Since its inauguration, Project Hope has received more than 2.2 billion yuan (US$265 million) in donations from domestic and overseas sources including individuals, government organizations and major transnational corporations.
(Xinhua News Agency, China Daily October 14, 2004)