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Region sets pace in vocational education

By LIU WEILING,HU DONGMEI and FANG AIQING in Yinchuan | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2023-03-23 07:13
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Students learn agricultural technology, electrical engineering and other skills at the vocational school in Hongsibu district, Wuzhong city, Ningxia Hui autonomous region. GUO SHAOYU/FOR CHINA DAILY

Ningxia benefits as needs of local industries are met

Ma Guopeng, 17, has produced about half a hectare of daylilies at home — earning his family more than 100,000 yuan ($14,500) last year.

This income was largely the result of the second-year high school student telling his parents when and how to properly apply fertilizer and water to the plants, which bear large yellow flowers and bloom only for a day.

Ma is studying modern protected agriculture at a vocational secondary school in Hongsibu district, Wuzhong, Ningxia Hui autonomous region.

He has made good progress since taking part in a program to learn about and optimize the planting of these lilies and help breed new varieties.

The lessons require much time and effort to be spent in a greenhouse. The students are taught to assess temperatures and humidity levels, use a wheelbarrow to spread manure, and apply drip irrigation during fieldwork.

The type of daylily Ma has produced is a popular medicinal herb used especially in southern areas of China to make soup.

In recent years, the daylily has become an agricultural mainstay in Hongsibu. In 2021, such plants grown on 5,347 hectares in the area had an output value of 545 million yuan, accounting for 30.6 percent of the district's annual agricultural output value, local government data show.

Ma is just one of the students passing on the information they acquire to their families. He said he is enthusiastic about the lessons and wants to further improve the industry.

Hongsibu is home to more than 230,000 people relocated mainly from barren areas of Xihaigu in southern Ningxia, which comprises Xiji county, Haiyuan county and Guyuan city. The UN once labeled the area the "most unfit place for human settlement" in terms of land reclamation, drought and a fragile ecological environment.

In the late 1990s, China launched an irrigation project to pump water more than 300 meters up to Hongsibu from the Yellow River.

After being lifted out of poverty in 2020, Hongsibu has made huge efforts to improve education and give the next generation more choices about future careers.

Sun Zhi, head of the region's finance department, said spending on education in Ningxia has remained above 5.4 percent of GDP for 10 consecutive years, compared with 4 percent nationally during this time.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the general public education budget in Ningxia exceeded 20 billion yuan, accounting for one-seventh of the region's total budget spending, Sun said.

Education in Hongsibu takes up 20 percent of the district's total general public budget spending, according to local government data.

Ha Xiaojun, head of the education bureau in Hongsibu, said launching the secondary school in 2018 filled a gap in the district's vocational education, made the local education system more comprehensive, and laid a solid foundation for poverty alleviation and rural vitalization.

Student numbers at the school have risen from fewer than 300 when it was founded to about 1,600. The majority of students enter a vocational college after they graduate.

Last year, 17 graduates, mainly studying preschool education and automotive maintenance, or with a talent for sports, passed an exam for vocational school students. The exam is similar to the college entrance exam, and if they pass it, students can be admitted to university departments that emphasize practical skills for a bachelor's degree, rather than a vocational degree.

The number of such enrollments in Ningxia was around 200 last year.

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