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Fees Waived for Rural Students
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Starting this year, the Chinese government will scrap charges for rural students during their nine-year compulsory education. This story will find out how this policy benefits children, their families, and the countryside in the northwest China's Gansu Province.


This spring semester will be remembered by Qi Qin and her family, as it marked the start of Qin's free education for the next 2 years.


Qi Qin's dad, Farmer in Tianzhu County, Gansu Province, said, "We paid 150 yuan less than last spring term. We can use the money to buy at least 4 bags of fertilizer. In addition, the government waived farmers' agricultural tax. All this greatly relieves our financial burdens."


Qin's parents said in addition to tuition fees, the government also provides free textbooks to the 14 year-old. This saves the poverty-stricken family 300 yuan each year, accounting for 30 percent of its annual income.


By the end of this year, the government will pay all tuition fees for rural kids from 12 western provinces. And by the end of next year, all children from rural China will enjoy free 9-year compulsory education. The government's policy is regarded by many as an educational revolution, as it targets to provide equal access to education to all Chinese children.


Qin is one of the 160 million rural students to benefit from the government's new policy. They make up 80 percent of the country's primary and junior high school students.


One of the direct results of the policy has been an immediate decrease in the number of dropouts. At the Dachaigou Junior High School, for example, 14 students who could not afford education returned to school this semester.


And school staff says they have been freed from the task of collecting a range of fees so that they have more time to concentrate on their teaching.


Jia Shengzhong, Headmaster, Dachaigou Middle School, Tianzhu County, said, "Now we don't have to worry about education fees. And we can concentrate on the promotion of teaching quality as well as academic research."


For those who are extremely poor, the government also provides lodging allowance. Children living in this boarding school say though the annual 240 yuan subsidy is not a big amount, it will help them smoothly complete their schooling.


And officials believe the policy will have a long-term bearing on local development.


Zhang Yanbao, Chief Tianzhu County, Gansu Province, said, "We encourage all kids to go to school, because we know they are the guarantee of our future talents. Only with talents can we have a reliable basis for further economic growth."


The free-education policy made it much easier for Qin to gain knowledge. She hopes her dream of becoming a university student in the future just like her urban peers will not be far away.


( May 11, 2006)

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