“What I can do in school is to study harder and get good test results. I don’t want to disappoint my family,” Li Caijing says, sitting in a dark and damp room she calls home.
Her family left her alone in her home village of Nachang in the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region to find work in neighboring Guangdong province.
“It’s been two or three years, since I saw my mother,” she sighs. Li’s aim is simple, to dedicate herself to study in the hope of reaching university and a job that will help her support her family. “I want to be an English teacher,” she says.
The only high school in Bama county now educates 3,400 students. Although it has limited teaching resources, over 60 percent of the graduating students made it into higher education in 2013. This level of success is new.
Li Dakun, now a teacher, but once a student recalled that “the school’s roof used to leak and it was a struggle just to stay dry in class. It’s a completely different place now.” There are incentives too, with poorer students receiving 200 to 300 yuan a month to cover daily expenses.
Seven years ago, the Ministry of Education prioritized rural education, as the gap in standards between city and village schools appeared to be growing. Funding to rural schools almost doubled with a priority placed on water, electricity, heating, staff training and multimedia facilities, all of which has clearly reached Bama high school.
Two years ago, the Ministry of Education again increased its rural education spending by 20 percent to 48 billion yuan (US$7.6 billion), with the goal of continuing to improve the nine-year free compulsory education in the villages.
For Li Caijing, getting into university is not guaranteed, as the competition is fierce. “I am not sure if I can make it,” she says several times. There are other options at technical training colleges, which will give her the qualifications she needs, but a lower paid job. For now, all she can do is to concentrate on her studies.
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