Education changes destiny of impoverished children in south China
Updated 12:09, 21-Oct-2018
By Cui Hui'ao, You Siyuan
One way to lift people out of poverty is to empower them with knowledge. High-quality education provided by free public schools is crucial for low-income families, and one newly-opened school in south China's Guangdong Province is helping underprivileged children rewrite an otherwise dim future.
Li Xiaomei, 40, runs a fruit shop with her husband. For 18 years, the couple has survived on less than 3,000 yuan (around 430 US dollars) a month. With three young children, the family is cramped in a tiny apartment, and their biggest concern used to be which school their kids could attend.
"With our income level, there's no way to send them to a private school. Local public schools usually don't take our children because their father's Hukou is registered in another province," said Li.
Hukou is a household registration system implemented in China, which ties access to services such as education and car ownership to one's residency status in a particular area.
 CGTN reporter talks with Li Xiaomei and her husband. /CGTN Photo

 CGTN reporter talks with Li Xiaomei and her husband. /CGTN Photo

Limited schooling options meant the family faced a possible move back to the countryside where they're registered. Fortunately, one public school threw them a lifeline.
Funded by the Shenzhen municipal government, it provides 3,000 slots for local students in the city, including Li's daughter, Tang Ziyi.
Tang said with excitement that when she first visited the school in July, she was shocked. "I had never seen a playground so big, and teachers here are very friendly. I am having a great time here."
Desperate to give her daughter a chance, Li contacted the school's principal immediately after hearing of its opening. She knew with a government investment as big as 135 million yuan, the education provided would be on par with that in first-tier cities.
Shenhe Middle School /CGTN Photo

Shenhe Middle School /CGTN Photo

"Drawing on experiences from one of Shenzhen's best schools, we want to provide the best education here in Heyuan, including for students with disadvantaged backgrounds," said Gai Fengzi, director of Shenzhen Office Aiding Heyuan's Livelihood.
Top-notch teaching resources and a variety of extra-curricular activities aside, the school also features a modern dormitory. Students like Tang can live there for free, a rare exemption even in public schools.
There are 30 students like Tang who are from a disadvantaged background and are now enrolled at the Shenhe Middle School.
Tang Ziyi takes down notes during a math class. /CGTN Photo

Tang Ziyi takes down notes during a math class. /CGTN Photo

There is no doubt that education plays a pivotal role in poverty eradication. Children with no access to schools are usually less-equipped socially, emotionally and physically.
Education is not only important in reducing poverty but also "key in making them better citizens," the school principal said.
Li Fangsheng, the headmaster of the school, said their goal is to nurture the students to become citizens with global visions.
"We believe it can only be achieved through education, as knowledge and skills can stay with them forever."
Tang told CGTN that she has already made friends at school. She enjoys mathematics, singing, and playing sports.
For her parents, this is probably the best news they've ever heard. Although they now see their daughter less often, they're confident that her future would be bright.