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Japan fund offers Chinese gift of learning
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Some 2,000 students in landlocked Jiangxi province in China are getting ready to move into modern new classrooms paid for by a special assistance program set up by the Japanese government.


The Japanese Embassy in Beijing recently handed over 645,000 yuan ($90,000) from the Grant Assistance for Grassroots Human Security Project, which will pay not only for bigger, better classrooms at Dongtuan Middle School in Shangrao in Jiangxi province, but also new offices for teachers. The new rooms will be ready by September.


Yu Jingui, a former headmaster of the school who has been working on the project for the past two years, is familiar with the positive role the Japanese government can play in supporting education in China – he participated in a similar program eight years ago when he was the headmaster of another school.


"In 2000, that school had 200 students and 10 teachers. Today, it has more than 1,000 students and 48 teachers," he said.


"And it has become one of the top schools in the county."


One key benefit of the program is that it will place world-class educational facilities within the reach of children who are forced to travel long distances to go to school.


"Many children have to walk extra distances to attend class because Dongtuan School can't accommodate them all," Yu said.


Villagers in Shangrao earn about 1,300 yuan a year on average, and the local government lacks the funding necessary to pay for education, medical care and other welfare projects.


Satoshi Harada, project assistant at the embassy, said his government encourages investment in projects that contribute to sustainable development in China's poverty-stricken rural areas, especially in the central and western regions.


County and township governments and non-government organizations are encouraged to apply for grants from the Japanese government, which can provide up to 10 million yen ($94,000) per project.


Makoto Kamiya, second secretary of the Japanese Embassy, said: "Grants offer more practical benefits to poor Chinese than loans when it comes to ensuring their security and quality of life."


China and Japan recently ended the practice of taking out low-interest, long-term government loans to support development programs.


"Many Japanese now see China getting rich," Kamiya said.


"But China is such a big country, and many people are still suffering from poverty. They still need assistance from the outside world.


"Despite the pressure on the Japanese government because of its budget difficulties and expanding deficit, there isn't any possibility that grant assistance will be reduced," he said.


(China Daily January 29, 2008)

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