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China beefs up efforts to help underprivileged children

2015-01-14 13:17 Xinhua Web Editor: Gu Liping

When 23-year-old Yu Runhan first began teaching at a remote middle school in southwest China's Yunnan Province, educating the students proved a daunting challenge.

Her school, in Yi Autonomous Prefecture of Chuxiong, was comprised of students from the Yi ethnic minority who commonly speak the minority language instead of mandarin. With her lesson plans primarily in mandarin, Runhan found her students could not understand what she was teaching and quickly lost interest in study.

"I noticed that many students disliked school. Some even gave up on high school in order to return home for agricultural work or manual labor in cities," said Yu.

Language and education barriers are just one of many problems faced by children in poverty-stricken areas.

According to the Enhancing Underprivileged Children Development Plan (2014-2020), approved by the central government in November 2014, 40 million children have lower development in health and education than the national average.

The plan aims at bettering development for underprivileged children in 680 impoverished counties by providing benefits from prenatal care to effective and affordable education until they finish compulsory school.

It also pledges to help underprivileged children live in conditions as close as possible to the country's average level in terms of health, water, sanitation, nutrition, education, among others.

It set a goal for the maternal death rate related to childbirth in these regions to be decreased to 30 per 100,000.

Death rate of newborn babies and children under the age of five will drop to 12 per 1,000 and 15 per 1,000 respectively. Free vaccines as listed in the national immunization program will also be provided.

China will build more child welfare institutions, send more teachers to rural and remote areas and increase the allowances for special education and rural teachers, it added.

Yu, in the meantime, has figured out a way to help her students cultivate self-study. She set up a "reading corner" filled with old books and magazines in her class, drawing students interest by letting them select materials that interest them. .

"The students like reading a lot although they are not so into going to school. The books and magazines get borrowed as soon as I put them on the shelf," said Yu.

Dang Guoying, an agricultural expert with the China Academy of Social Sciences, said lack of early education and skills acts a barrier for many Chinese people to escape poverty.

"The plan is a key step to promote the development of underprivileged children," Dang said.

Xiong Bingqi, deputy director of the 21st Century Education Research Institute in Beijing, suggested increasing financial support from provincial level governments as financial security plays an important role in the implementation of the plan.

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