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Education nourishes impoverished county in NW China

Xinhua | Updated: 2018-10-15 09:15
Pupils at a primary school in Xi'an, Shaanxi province, look at a DIY innovative product made by students, Nov 28, 2017. [Photo/VCG]

XI'AN -- Baihe, a poverty-stricken county of no more than 220,000 people in Northwest China's Shaanxi province, has sent over 1,800 students to the country's top Chinese universities since 2000, offering the local region a solution to getting out of poverty.

"The science student who scored the highest in this year's national college entrance exam in the city of Ankang was from my class. He was admitted by Tsinghua University," said Xie Peicheng with pride, a teacher at Baihe Senior High School.

Seventy percent of the students in his class are from rural households, and many of the students come from poor families. "A decade ago, few students could pass the college entrance exam. But now, more students are being accepted by top universities," said Xie.

Baihe County lies in the deep mountains of Shaanxi Province, where there are rocky roads and areas of infertile soil. "To send a student from here to college is to help his or her family out of poverty," said Zeng Yougen, one of Xie's students. Zeng is also a graduate from a top three Chinese university and now the manager of a large company in the city of Hangzhou, capital of eastern China's Zhejiang Province.

"Mountainous Baihe lacks flat terrain, but the local government has offered the largest area of land to build our high school," said Niu Yubin, the principal of Baihe Senior High School. "The school was completed within three years with a total investment of 400 million yuan (about 58 million U.S. dollars). Its modern facilities are even better than those in high schools in many large cities."

The local government of Baihe has always made education a top priority. From 2011 to 2015, spending on education reached 128.2 million yuan, nearly two times that of its fiscal revenue. Five middle schools and high schools in the county have also been relocated to better places, 27 primary schools extended or rebuilt, and 11 kindergartens built from scratch.

Since then, Baihe has become a leading high school in the Ankang area, contributing the largest number of students to second-tier universities for 17 consecutive years.

Thanks to the good education they have received, more young people from the county have been seeking better lives in big cities while older generations have been returning, hoping to make a difference in their hometown.

Huang Zhigui, a 50-year-old miner-turned coal mine owner, was one of the villagers that returned after working in central China's Henan Province for 30 years. "I would drink a big bowl of wine to give myself encouragement before I went below," Huang recalled the days as a miner. He however deems it worthy work as he has donated most of his savings from the job to the renovation of a primary school back home.

"I have tasted the hardships of a drop-out, and our children deserve a better education," Huang said.

In 2009, Huang, already a millionaire, returned with an ambition to help his hometown out of poverty. He invested his savings of over 20 million yuan into a tea factory and 200 hectares of land.

Last year, his tea business began to profit. Thanks to selling six tonnes of tea, Huang received net earnings of over 400,000 yuan. "Investment in agriculture is a long-term business, and I feel encouraged that it will become a stable business for generations to come," Huang said.

Li Changhua, 64, like 271 other households, could hardly make ends meet before she began working for Huang's tea factory. But now, the job has become a stable and major source of income.

Migrant workers account for up to 60 percent of the population in Baihe, which holds back its economic growth. "We will continue our efforts in education and provide one-stop services for businesspeople to attract investment and help increase employment," said Chen Jun, Baihe's Party chief.

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