Teenagers travel far for bet­ter school­ing

China Daily (Canada) - - XINJIANG - By LIN SHUJUAN and ZHANG LI

Thou­sands of kilo­me­ters from home, in a strange city with a some­times loose grasp of the lan­guage, teenagers from Xin­jiang Uygur au­ton­o­mous re­gion find them­selves home­sick, lonely and strug­gling to com­mu­ni­cate.

But their dreams of a bet­ter ed­u­ca­tion help them to per­se­vere through the tough be­gin­nings at one of the pi­lot schools in Bei­jing that have been re­cruit­ing Xin­jiang stu­dents since 2000, when the cen­tral gov­ern­ment started a pro­gram to help im­prove their ed­u­ca­tion.

“Al­though

the

school

is 3,000 kilo­me­ters away from home, it’s still worth study­ing here,” said Di­lara, a se­nior fromHami, who is now study­ing at Luhe High School in east­ern Bei­jing’s Tongzhou dis­trict.

Stu­dents ap­ply for the pro­gram and those who pass en­trance exams or­ga­nized by lo­cal gov­ern­ments are ad­mit­ted to 93 in­land city schools in Bei­jing, Shang­hai and 43 other cities. So far, 80,200 stu­dents have par­tic­i­pated. They study for free and re­ceive a 650 yuan ($100) monthly liv­ing al­lowance.

“It’s re­ally at­trac­tive to me that the in­cluded schools are lo­cated in de­vel­oped cities like Bei­jing and Shang­hai,” said Di­lara, a Uygur stu­dent who had lived with her grand­mother since she was a child.

“We don’t have to pay any tuition and even get monthly sub­sidy. That’s quite a relief for me andmy grandma.”

Ar­riv­ing in Bei­jing at the age of 14, Di­lara ini­tially was both­ered by home­sick­ness and the chal­lenge of com­mu­ni­cat­ing.

“I felt ashamed to com­mu­ni­cate with teach­ers here be­cause of my poor Man­darin,” she said.

The school

pro­vides

one year of train­ing to help the Xin­jiang stu­dents im­prove their lan­guage skills and of­fers psy­cho­log­i­cal ad­vice be­fore they start their high school cur­ricu­lum.

Early on, Di­lara turned to Ay­tu­ran, a teacher from Ili who joined the stu­dents at the Bei­jing school, but she soon adapted and made friends with lo­cal stu­dents.

Some­times she and other stu­dents from Xin­jiang are in­vited home by lo­cal stu­dents, es­pe­cially dur­ing win­ter va­ca­tions, when most of them would rather stay at school than take the 30-hour train ride back home.

Di­lara re­called a re­cent visit to the home of her class­mate Cui Xi.

“His mother cooked mut­ton chops for us, which is ex­actly what I missed so much, and his fa­ther en­cour­aged me, just like my own fa­ther does,” she re­called.

Cui Xi said daily life be­came more fun af­ter the Xin­jiang stu­dents joined the class.

“We cel­e­brate Eid al-Adha, the tra­di­tional festival, usu­ally cel­e­brated by the Uygur in Septem­ber, a fancy day filled with the aroma of roast lamb and the ec­stasy of car­ni­val,” Cui said.

Now an 18-year-old se­nior, Di­lara plans to fur­ther her ed­u­ca­tion at Bei­jing Sec­ond For­eign Lan­guage Univer­sity. “I al­ways hoped to study tourism and pro­mote my home­town to the world one day,” she said.

Li Tong­shu, di­rec­tor of stu­dents at Luhe, said the suc­cess of the grad­u­ates over the past 16 years gives her con­fi­dence that Di­lara’s dream — and the dreams of the other stu­dents — will come true.

“Nearly 1,400Xin­jiang grad­u­ates have been ad­mit­ted by uni­ver­si­ties at home and abroad, and among those, 800 have de­voted them­selves to fur­ther build­ing their home­towns,” Li proudly said.

As sig­nif­i­cant as the re­sults are, school­mas­ter Xu Hua re­called the un­ex­pected dif­fi­cul­ties the school en­coun­tered in the be­gin­ning .

“We only had four months to solve the ac­com­mo­da­tion prob­lems,” Xu said. “But we man­aged to set up a halal can­teen and en­larged the dor­mi­tory in time.”

In re­cent years, Abudu­manap, a teacher in Ili, has seen the pro­gram gain in pop­u­lar­ity among the Xin­jiang stu­dents.

“The en­trance exam has grown com­pet­i­tive, arous­ing the stu­dents’ zeal to learn Man­darin,” Abudu­manap said.

“Herders are will­ing to send their chil­dren away for an ed­u­ca­tion, be­cause they re­al­ize that would change the kids’ fu­ture or even the fam­ily’s.”

Con­tact the writ­ers at lin­shu­juan@ chi­nadaily.com.cn

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