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Project to Help Rural Kids Go Back to School
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Ning Xiaoxia, a 13-year old girl living in Daping Village in Ankang, Shaanxi Province, is happy because she can go back to school again on September 1 when the new term begins.


She was one of thousands of pupils who dropped out of school because their families could not afford the boarding fees.


But these children will now benefit from Shaanxi provincial government's 200 million yuan (US$25 million) project to help students in remote rural areas. They will each receive 1.5 yuan (19 US cents) every day for school boarding fees.


"With the local government's financial support, I can continue my studies," Ning said.


The project will be launched in September for students from families with financial difficulties.


Rural pupils, especially those living in mountainous areas, have to live at school, returning home only at weekends because their homes are too far away from schools, said Xuan Weijian, an official with Zhenping County education bureau.


Daping village is under the administration of Zhenping County.


However, many students' families cannot afford their children's school living expenses, although they only need to pay for their meals, Xuan said.


Now the 1.5-yuan daily aid can help them pay for three meals a day, he added.


According to Mu Zhen, an official with the provincial education department, there are about 40,000 pupils who have dropped out of school in Shaanxi.


"Most of them could not continue their studies because they live too far away from school and are unable to pay the boarding fees," Mu said.


"Although the dropout rate in the province fell to 0.34 percent this year from 0.53 percent in 2004, we will make more of an effort to help every child finish their nine-year compulsory education," Mu said.


The nine years include six years in elementary school and three years in junior middle school.


(China Daily August 24, 2006)

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