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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author Xiang Manhong (向满红)

Born in 1958, Xiang lives in Hongjiang, Hunan province. He took up photography after retiring in 2014 from the Hongjiang Science and Technology Bureau. Xiang now covers local culture, traditional lifestyles, and social issues such as rural education, local politics, and left-behind children. His work has won various local photography awards, and has been published by People’s Photography, CCTV, Phoenix Satellite TV, and Tencent Charity.

Translated By
author Liu Jue

Liu Jue is the co-managing editor of The World of Chinese Magazine. She has a Master of Arts in Communication from Middle Tennessee State University, and a Bachelor of Arts from Minzu University. She has been working for TWOC since 2012. She is interested in covering history, traditional culture, and Chinese language.

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