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City children get glimpse of 'simple' rural life
By Zhu Yuzi (China Daily)
Updated: 2004-08-23 07:14

A group of urban children discovered last week that almost every aspect of rural life, from quality of life to dreams and ambitions, is different from theirs.

Chen Yixiu, a senior school student from Shanghai, got his first glimpse at the vast differences when Chongming Island, in the countryside of Shanghai, came into view after an hour-long boat ride.

"Is this Shanghai?" Chen wondered as he got off the speed boat and stepped on the out-of-the-way island.

Instead of skyscrapers and neon lights, Chen saw shabby houses.

"Everything I imagined about Chongming Island proved wrong," Chen said.

"I had expected villas there, whatever, here is Shanghai, one of the most developed cities in the country," Chen said.

For Chen, rural life was once a reality too far removed to understand. Then he saw it for himself.

He was one of more than 150 children from Guangdong, Guangxi, Guizhou, Shanxi and Shanghai who participated in a special summer camp aimed at teaching city children about the reality of rural life.

The annual summer camp was created by the China National Children's Centre and the United Nations Children's Fund in 2002.

"The summer camp sets a good example to help children participate," said Wan Yan, an official from the State Council, to mark the end of this year's installment during the weekend.

"Children deserve full rights to listen, learn and express themselves as independent individuals as we adults."

Participation in all matters affecting them is one of the guiding principles of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

During their seven-day stay in Chongming, the group visited local residents as well as people relocated from the Three Gorges.

"The immigrants' living conditions are better than those of their hometowns and they are grateful for the bigger and brighter houses in Chongming, but I still felt sorry because compared to city life their life is much plainer," Chen said.

"So many question marks were aroused in me, I want know why and how the differences developed," Chen said.

Several topics, like dream and family, school and education, AIDS prevention and mental support were put up for discussion among the camp participants.

They also conducted surveys on education, environment, mental and physical health in rural areas.

According to Yang, the China National Children's Centre is planning to launch a programme called Breakfast Club aiming to guarantee children from less-developed areas have breakfast.

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