With a financial input of 7.2 billion yuan (around US$900 million) in 2005, a government-sponsored program aided millions of poor rural households by exempting them from school tuition, incidental fees and providing boarding subsidies to their kids.
Wang Xuming, spokesman with China's Ministry of Education, said on Tuesday that the fund enabled 34 million primary and junior middle school students in the central and western rural areas to get free textbooks, and over 31 million were exempted from incidental fees, each accounting about 30 percent of the total.
With the program, poor kids in rural elementary schools each enjoyed a 210-yuan cut in tuition and incidental fees on average every year, and those in junior middle schools could enjoy a cut of 320 yuan, Wang said, adding that boarders could get a subsidy of 200 to 300 yuan.
"The program helped 350,000 drop-outs in the regions go back to schools in 2005," Wang said.
Soaring education fees have left many kids from poor families in China's outlying western regions out of schools.
China has decided to invest 218.2 billion yuan (US$27 billion) in rural education to ensure that every child in rural and poor areas can enjoy a nine-year compulsory education.
From this spring semester, China has exempted primary and junior middle school students in poor western part of the country from school tuition fees and incidental charges. And all rural students will enjoy the free nine-year compulsory education by the end of next year.
(Xinhua News Agency April 26, 2006)