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China Spends Hugely to Promote Compulsory Schooling in Ethnic Minority Areas
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The provincial government of southwestern Sichuan spent 300 million yuan (US$37 million) in each of the past five years on a program to ensure compulsory and free nine-year schooling in its autonomous Tibetan, Yi, and Qiang ethnic prefectures.

The government launched the nine-year schooling promotion program in 2001 aiming to let every seven-year old child from the province's ethnic group habitats go to school instead of shepherding sheep or yaks. Total investment in the program was estimated at 3 billion yuan (US$370 million) for the 10-year term.

Over the past five years, the central and the provincial governments have invested 574 million yuan (US$70.8 million) in the Ganzi Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture to promote legal nine-year compulsory schooling. Apart from that, the local governments have invested tens of millions yuan to that effect.

According to Tang Yongsheng, head of the Ganzi prefecture education authority, nine-year compulsory schooling has been realized in nine out of 18 counties in Ganzi, covering 53.56 percent of the prefecture's total population of less than one million.

Education facilities have been improved in the past five years in the three autonomous prefectures.

Ganzi High School, one of the best schools in Sichuan Province, received a total fund of over 10 million yuan (US$1.2 million) from the above-mentioned program in addition to funds from universities and international organizations, said Garong Yongzhong, principal of the school.

In comparison, all the three autonomous prefectures in Sichuan received only two million yuan (US$246,609) a year before the program was launched.

With subsidies for textbooks and food, schooling has come to be virtually free.

A lodging school has been established in Litang County of Ganzi that now has 1,025 students, including some kids that have registered in lama temples.

Cai Jiangkang, headmaster of the school, said more and more people in Tibet are willing to send their children to schools.

(Xinhua News Agency November 16, 2005)

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