Study­ing out­side Xin­jiang

Poverty al­le­vi­a­tion, devel­op­ment and cul­tural ex­changes are byprod­ucts of ef­forts to bet­ter ed­u­cate tens of thou­sands at in­land schools

China Daily (Canada) - - XINJIANG - By MAOWEIHUA and ZHU LIXIN in Urumqi

Mar­dan Ma­mat, a bas­ket­ball player dubbed “the lit­tle Jor­dan” by his class­mates, has been study­ing at No 66 Mid­dle School in Urumqi since last year as part of a mas­sive project to of­fer more ed­u­ca­tional op­por­tu­ni­ties to ru­ral stu­dents in the Xin­jiang Uygur au­ton­o­mous re­gion.

The tall 14-year-old, who is study­ing 1,000 kilo­me­ters from his home in Xa­hap town­ship of Yecheng county in Xin­jiang’s Kashi city, has more than hoop dreams. He may never ri­val NBA great Michael Jor­dan, from whom he draws his nick­name, but he can have Jor­dan’s work ethic in the class­room.

“Born in a poverty-stricken ru­ral fam­ily, my par­ents, who are farm­ers, hoped I would have a bet­ter life by study­ing hard,” Mar­dan said.

Mar­dan dreams of go­ing to Shang­hai to at­tend high school and Bei­jing-based Ts­inghua Univer­sity for col­lege. He un­der­stands he will need to dili­gently ap­ply him­self to his stud­ies if he is to ful­fill his dreams, but he knows the op­por­tu­nity is there.

To give stu­dents in ru­ral, poverty-stricken ar­eas equal ac­cess to a good ed­u­ca­tion, the Xin­jiang gov­ern­ment cre­ated a ju­nior mid­dle school ed­u­ca­tion pro­gram in 2004 to send se­lected pri­mary school grad­u­ates to ju­nior mid­dle schools in other Xin­jiang cities for fur­ther study.

By the end of last year, 71,800 such grad­u­ates had stud­ied in 16 cities in the au­ton­o­mous re­gion, ed­u­ca­tion depart­ment records showed.

Suc­cess­ful older stu­dents have been sent even far­ther away through a sep­a­rate pro­gram started in 2000 to en­roll ju­nior mid­dle school grad­u­ates in high schools in 12 more-de­vel­oped in­land cities such as Bei­jing, Shang­hai and Tian­jin.

The pro­gram ex­panded over the years and stu­dents now at­tend 93 in­land high schools in 45 cities, au­thor­i­ties said.

Nearly 39,000 stu­dents have grad­u­ated from the in­land high schools, and about 95 per­cent of them have fur­thered their stud­ies at in­land uni­ver­si­ties, said Sun Qi, vice-head of Xin­jiang gov­ern­ment’s ed­u­ca­tion depart­ment. More than 34,000 more Xin­jiang stu­dents are still in the pro­gram.

All of theXin­jiang stu­dents’ school ex­penses are cov­ered by the gov­ern­ment, mak­ing par­tic­i­pa­tion pos­si­ble for stu­dents who oth­er­wise would find an ed­u­ca­tion be­yond their homes too costly.

The pro­gram of­fers other ben­e­fits as well, which are more in­tan­gi­ble, but no less im­por­tant, such as cul­tural ex­changes be­tween class­mates that bring a greater un­der­stand­ing of how other peo­ple live.

Stu­dents are also ex­pected to bring the skills and tal­ents they’ve nur­tured at schools out­side the re­gion back home, where they can con­trib­ute to Xin­jiang’s devel­op­ment. More than 16,400 Xin­jiang stu­dents have al­ready grad­u­ated from in­land uni­ver­si­ties.

Mar­jan Be­lik, a sopho­more at Nan­jing Univer­sity, has ben­e­fited from both pro­grams.

An eth­nic Kazakh from Tacheng city in­Xin­jiang, Mar­jan is ma­jor­ing in bio­science and in­ter­na­tional trade at the univer­sity based in the cap­i­tal of East China’s Jiangsu prov­ince.

She fin­ished her ju­nior mid­dle school in Xin­jiang, just as Mar­dan is do­ing, and at­tended a high school in­Fu­jian prov­ince.

“When I was a sopho­more in a Fu­jian-based high school, I had a dream of be­com­ing a diplo­mat af­ter I sawaChi­nese fe­male diplo­mat on tele­vi­sion who im­pressed me very much,” Mar­jan said. She now also spends much of her time study­ing English and Rus­sia.

Sun said most stu­dents choose to re­turn to their home­towns af­ter grad­u­a­tion, “giv­ing the re­gion’s so­cial and eco­nomic devel­op­ment a strong push with their ta­lent”.

“As most of the stu­dents are from the poverty-stricken ar­eas of Xin­jiang, ed­u­ca­tion could be one of the most ef­fec­tive ways to pull them out of poverty,” said Yu Zhao­quan, an ad­min­is­tra­tive Mar­dan’s school.

Sun said the pro­grams have had a pro­found in­flu­ence on the stu­dents and those who get to know them and their cul­ture in and out of the class­room.

“The stu­dents bring the real Xin­jiang to the peo­ple of the in­land prov­inces and get bet­ter knowl­edge of the other prov­inces of the coun­try,” Sun said.

Yue Ke, a teacher at the An­hui Au­to­mo­bile In­dus­try School, said he has wit­nessed many sto­ries of friendly ex­changes. There also are op­por­tu­ni­ties for these stu­dents to study at tech­ni­cal sec­ondary schools in in­land prov­inces.

TheThe tech­ni­cal­tech­ni­cal sec­ondary sec­ondary schoolschool based­based in in He­fei, He­fei, An­hui An­hui prov­ince,prov­ince, has has been been re­cruit­in­gre­cruit­ing stu­dents stu­dents from from Xin­jiang Xin­jiang since since2011, 2011,two yearstwo years be­fore be­fore Yue Yue started start­edto workto work there. there.

““Ev­ery Ev­ery time time they they come come to to the the school school from fromtheir home­towns,their home­towns,the Xin­jiangthe Xin­jiang stu­dents stu­dentsof dif­fer­entof dif­fer­enteth­nic groupseth­nic groups­bring the bring lo­cal the spe­cialties­lo­cal spe­cial­ties to their class­matesto their class­mateshere, who here,also give who their also own givein re­turn,”their ownYue said.in re­turn,” Yue said.

“I“I of­ten of­ten see see class­mates class­mates of of dif­fer­ent dif­fer­ent eth­nic eth­nic groups groups hug hug each each other oth­er­with tears with in tears their in eyes their when eyes the when Xin­jiangthe Xin­jiang stu­dents de­part stu­dentsas de­part grad­u­a­tionas grad­u­a­tion­fi­nally comes,” fi­nal­lyYue said. comes,” Yue said. Con­tact the writ­ers at Con­tact zhulixin@chi­nadaily.com.cn­the writ­ers at zhulixin@chi­nadaily.com.cn

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As most of the stu­dents are from the poverty-stricken ar­eas of Xin­jiang, ed­u­ca­tion could be one of the most ef­fec­tive ways to pull them out of poverty.”

LIU MINGZHAO / FOR CHINA DAILY

Stu­dents from the Xin­jiang Uygur au­ton­o­mous re­gion look at pho­to­graphs in their dor­mi­tory at Rizhao Ex­per­i­men­tal High School in Shan­dong prov­ince. A to­tal of 49 Xin­jiang stu­dents, in­clud­ing 19 from dif­fer­ent eth­nic groups, have stud­ied at the school since Oc­to­ber 2014.

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