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Mind the gap
(China Daily)
Updated: 2009-10-14 13:58

"We hold meetings for poor students about once a month and try to pay close attention to their behavior, to make sure they are happy and coping well with the pressure," said Dong Jiaomei, who is in charge of student affairs at Dalian Polytechnic University.

"We know each student's financial situation when they enter the university but we never make public the names of those who receive the school's special poverty subsidies, in order to protect students' privacy and self-esteem."

The reasons behind the growing gap between rich and poor in China are legion but to reduce the negative impact requires concerted efforts by the central government, colleges and society as a whole, said experts.

"Although subsidies and allowances for poor students keep increasing year by year, it is still not enough to cover every young person who needs them," said Su. "Government and universities need to improve the subsidy system to ensure needy students get an equal chance at education.

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"Most students don't want handouts. They want to make a living with their own hands, so making more part-time jobs and work opportunities available would be the best way to help impoverished students," he added.

A fair job market in which guanxi, or good family connections, had little impact was vital to support them, said Su, "but we can be optimistic as the majority of the employers still favor students with real talents".

Nie Zhenwei, director of the psychology center at Beijing Normal University, also warned those students from rich backgrounds were not immune from the impact of the wealth gap.

"We cannot forget that, by indulging in an affluent life early on, young people often fail to get a good grounding and lose direction," he said. "Learning how to form proper attitudes to life and money is an important lesson at universities for both poor and rich students. We cannot choose the family we were born into, but we can always choose our future."

He said that his college organized many activities for students in the same dormitory to compete in as a unit, allowing rich and poor students to build successful living and working relationships.

"Every semester we also take every opportunity to communicate with parents how important it is they foster rational lifestyles for their children, and keep their feet on the ground," he added.

Mind the gap

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