Rural education is a challenge around the world … even in the United States. School in rural Asia is even more challenging.
Local governments do their best to provide quality resources, but often the challenges go unmet.
A recent article titled “China’s grim rural boarding schools” in the Economist highlighted this challenge for students in Guizhou, one of China’s poorest provinces.
The report explained the history of education in rural China. In the 1990’s almost every child age 6 – 10 had a primary school in his or her village. These were typically one-room schools, but they were close to home … just a few minutes walk usually.
But as China’s coastal mega cities grew, many families migrated to the urban areas. Enrollment dropped for local schools.
As enrollment fell, the government merged schools to pool resources. Nearly 3/4 of rural schools closed as a result of the merging policy by 2015 … an estimated 300,000 schools were shut down.
Boarding Becomes The Only Option
Now with fewer schools, most children are forced to travel long distances to school. Often the trip is too long for a day, so boarding is the only option. An estimated 50% of all secondary school students in rural China now board for school.
Boarding schools in rural China are very different than the boarding schools in the cities. Urban boarding schools are privately funded and provide cutting edge education with elite facilities.
Boarding schools in rural China are government funded and often ill-equipped. We’ve seen this first hand.
During our work in villages in Guangxi, China, we visited several boarding schools in deplorable conditions. Local government leaders brought us to see the schools. The leaders asked for help funding projects for new dorm rooms, classrooms, and water access projects. The local government wanted to help but lacked the funding.
Government spending in rural China is only about $145 per student per year for lodging, breakfast, and dinner. That’s less than half of the budget for students in Beijing, according to Unicef.
In many other parts of rural China, including many areas where Project Partner works, parents have to fund the entire costs of school.
Local governments in rural China simply don’t have enough resources to meet the vast number of needs.
Many families have told us the only option is for the parents to pay for education. Without funding the schools are condemned and shut down altogether, leaving no opportunity for their children’s education.
Rural Education In China Falls Short
The results of China’s rural education challenges are heart-breaking.
- Dropout rates doubled between 2006 and 2011
- Less than 10% of rural students go to high school (70% in cities)
- Rural students are prone to anxiety, depression, and other mental health conditions
- Rural students lack supervision and emotional support
You Can Make A Difference
While the Chinese government acknowledges the challenges, there is very little motivation to spend more money locally. Students who succeed will almost always leave for the opportunities in the large cities.
It’s a vicious cycle to rely on local government help.
Your support really can make a significant impact for students in rural China.
For example, Project Partner supporters funded a new school building in Guangxi, province. This photo shows the run down original building with mold on the walls (left) next to the new building (right).
The local government was aware of the need and asked Project Partner to help fund the project, 50/50.
Your support for education projects will ensure a brighter future for students and their rural community.
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