Rural schools endure, despite lack of funding—or pupils
It’s the first day of the fall semester in Ganxiping Elementary School (甘溪坪小学) in Hongjiang, Hunan province, and the whole school has gathered for a commencement speech from the headmaster. There are only 15 people in attendance—13 students, two faculty members.
Most students are “left-behind children” from the local village, left in the care of their aged grandparents while their parents seek work in the city. With funding shortages and aging facilities, Ganxiping is far from an isolated case. Rather, it’s the norm for many young rural students in China’s mid-western interior, where they are known as “micro” or “incomplete elementary schools,” since they lack the resources to cater to all the grades. Instead, students of different ages and development stages share teachers and classrooms.
In the last two decades, urban migration and low birthrates have led to a significant decrease of incoming students and in turn, a decline in rural schooling. As a result, a national campaign to redistribute rural resources has started. But in many places, this has translated to simply closing down schools. From 2000 to 2010, rural elementary schools closed at an astonishing rate—63 per day, according to Yang Dongping, director of the 21st Century Education Research Institute.
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