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Migrant Children to Benefit from Hope Education Fund

China's Project Hope, a social charity program that helps rural students, will finance 15,000 students from migrant workers' families in 27 cities to go to school in the next half year, the China Youth Development Foundation (CYDF) has said.

Each child will receive a grant of 600 yuan (US$73) before September 1 this year, when a new school term begins, said Zhang Chuanyuan of the CYDF, adding that the money can basically meet a student's academic needs.

After a public bidding held earlier this month, the CYDF chose 27 cities to receive aid, including Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen, Nanjing, Shenyang and Ningbo, which attract a majority of China's migrant workers, Zhang said.

"One of the criteria for a city to be chosen was whether local government gives migrant children equal treatment for education as local children," said Zhang.

Statistics from the CYDF show that about 20 million children flow into cities from the countryside with their parents each year.

About 80 percent of these children pay an average of 856 yuan (US$104) more than local students, said a survey conducted by the CYDF.

The CYDF started the "grants for migrant children" program early in January this year and carried out trials in six major Chinese cities, including Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, in the first half year. So far the program has helped 4,200 migrant students to attend school.

The Beijing Municipal Commission of Education has set a target for the city's public schools to accept 20,000 more children of migrant workers this year.

According to the Beijing Bureau of Statistics, more than one quarter of Beijing's 500,000 migrant families are living under the poverty line. More than 80 percent of migrant children are unable to attend middle schools. By the end of 2003, 70,000 of the 240,000 migrant children in Beijing failed to get schooling.

The Beijing Municipal Commission of Education also urges public schools to scrap the extra fees previously imposed on children of migrant workers who do not have permanent residence in Beijing.

Public schools used to charge 1,200 yuan (US$145) a year for each primary school student from migrant workers' families, and 2,000 yuan (US$241) a year for junior high.

As for small-scale private schools run by migrant workers exclusively for migrant children, the municipal education authorities have vowed to upgrade their standards in terms of facilities, teacher numbers and qualifications. Beijing had about 299 migrant schools, most on the city's outskirts, where large numbers of migrant workers live. So far, only 13 are up to the standards set by Beijing's education authorities.

(China Daily August 26, 2004)

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