Village schools which should not be pulled down

by Li Ling

- Amity's Rebuilding School Project -

In between the mountains in Mainland China, some village schools are under bad condition. The schools need to be repaired, but sadly being neglected due to their size or location. They can neither cooperate with the policy of “Rural Primary School closing or Merging Programme”, nor get enough support for renovation the school campus. With no other choices, teachers and students can only stay in the old and poor-conditioned campus to teach or learn.

In the past ten years, due to the economization, urbanization and the trend of declining birthrate in China, the Government decided to adjust the arrangements and geographical layouts of secondary, and primary schools in the rural areas. In order to gather all students in different villages to the centralized school in town, the policy of “Rural Primary School closing or Merging Programme” have been carried out. This policy encourages centralized schooling; enriches resources and equipment in schools and improves the quality of teaching. However, some students living in remote villages, especially those in the sout-western rural areas, may need to travel for a long distance to attend school.

In the south-west side of China, some village schools are established in remote areas with a distance of about 50km to the town. Parts of them can be hardly assessed by vehicles or any other transportation. There are less than 100 students in these poor-conditioned schools. Apart from lack of financial support, resources for the school and the salaries for teachers are also very little. These schools usually have an urgent need and are desperate for renovating and rebuilding. Yet due to the little number of students and amount of funding, they are usually neglected by the government.

In fact, based on the regulations of the policy, these village schools have to be removed. However, local government and villagers think schools must not be removed as local students need it even though it is small and old, so they decided to keep it no matter what the circumstances. If they do not keep it, children living in these remote areas would have to travel for one or two hours to school, which would remarkably reduce their studying time, or even lose the opportunity to go to school.

To solve this problem, some schools compress and adjust their lesson time to begin at 10am and end at 4pm. Some villagers in the mountain areas do not understand the importance of education, they had rather keep their children at home, working in the fields instead of sending them so school. In addition to some students giving up schooling due to their poor academic performances, teachers have to persuade students to return school in every beginning of the term.

In recent years, to solve the difficulties of students going to school, boarding school is developing rapidly. Yet, some problems of boarding system is soon discovered, for instance, the poor living conditions in boarding houses, the inadequate facilities, the more pressure on teachers and the hygiene and health problem of students. When visiting the boarding schools, we often see some sorrowful scenes, such as children wearing old and muddy clothes, having meals on the ground with their dark and dirty little hands. After all, if the facilities and resources of the boarding school are not up to standard, the children will have to live toughly in poor conditions.

Some boarding schools do not have enough spaces. A 25-square meter dorm room can accommodate up to 25 students. Two to three students, usually siblings, cousins or children from the same village, have to share a single bed. The most irritating problem in a boarding school must be the hygiene concern. Although the first lesson students attend in a boarding school is a safety and hygiene lesson, which teach them the basic sense of taking care of themselves, the students are young after all. They still do not manage to keep places clean and tidy, making the hygiene level of dormitories very low.

Schools play an important role in inheriting traditions and cultures. For students leaving home and family to attend schools in town, they are not only apart from their homeland, but also the cultures and customs of their villages. To those villages of ethnic minority, their traditional customs would then be difficult to pass on. On the other hand, as all students are sent to study in town, villages in remote area become very quiet and lifeless without the laughter of children. In the addition of adults leaving home and working in more prosperous urban area, many villages are like ‘empty villages’ without energy. Therefore, for some remote villages or ethnic minority villages, the schools should be kept and renovated. This will encourage more children to attend school and understand the importance of education. Moreover, the schools can be considered as essential cultural centers, which assist the inheritance and development of more traditional cultures, customs and way of lifes.

A school lunch - the little things in life can make you smile

In that place, I saw the most broken down campus, the most difficult environment to study, but also the purist smile and brightest eyes. Whenever I look at those pictures of the children, they light up my heart with hope and happiness even if I am in a terrible mood. I think I should not keep these photos privately in my computer, but to share it.

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Children are having lunch together. The girl in the middle forgets to bring her own spoon, so she shares with another girl. The simple meals consisted of vegetables and tofu, but the children enjoyed them so much. There was no table. Children had their meals on the ground.

Children could only hang up their lunchboxes as there was no cupboard. The boy immediately adjusts his collar after knowing we are going to take a photo. It was a precious chance for them to be photographed.