Poor schools tell students to BYO desk

Updated: 2012-09-05 07:29

By Luo Wangshu in Beijing and Zhou Lihua in Wuhan (China Daily)

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Education officials in Macheng, Hubei province, have been asked to dig into their own pockets to help buy desks and chairs for primary school students in an impoverished area.

The move follows the publication on Monday of pictures of children in Shunhe township carrying furniture for the first day of the new school semester.

Poor schools tell students to BYO desk

Two fellow villagers help Lu Siling and her mother unload a borrowed table on Saturday at a primary school in Shunhe township in Macheng, Hubei province. Yuan Liyang / Changjiang Times

As of Tuesday, enough money had been pledged by officials to buy 100 sets of desks and chairs, according to Ruan Jing, a publicity official for the city.

Each set costs about 250 yuan ($39), she said, adding that authorities are also asking companies for help.

On Monday, the Changjiang Times reported that more than 3,000 primary school students in Shunhe were forced to carry desks and chairs from their homes to the school, with the help of their parents, due to a shortage of supplies.

The paper also reported the story of Wang Ziyi, a 5-year-old girl, who took a 24-year-old desk to school. Her grandfather told the paper that the desk was used by the girl's father, uncles and aunts.

Poor schools tell students to BYO desk 

The report has caught the public's attention, with netizens accusing authorities of not providing appropriate school supplies to students.

According to a statement from the Macheng publicity office, authorities started a "Proper Study Desk" project in March 2012, to bring an end to the era of taking desks to schools. The planned cost of the project is 4 million yuan.

The Macheng education bureau bought 32,800 desks and chairs in March and June, aiming to cover all middle schools and some of the primary schools in the area.

About 3,000 sets were sent to Shunhe township, to boost supplies at three middle schools and at the Shunhe Central Primary School. The statement also announced a new investment worth 5 million yuan.

Xiang Mingxiu, the only teacher in the Changchong Primary School in Shunhe, said about a dozen sets of desks and chairs were delivered by local authorities to the school on Sunday.

Xiang recalled that her son, who now studies at a middle school in the city, also had to take his own desk when he went to primary school.

"I borrowed one for him from a relative," she said.

Yuan Guilin, a professor at Beijing Normal University, who is an expert on rural education, said the school supplies shortage is not a widespread problem in rural China.

"Only a few remote areas and villages are affected by this problem," Yuan said, adding that a shortage of school buildings and the safety conditions in existing schools are more pressing issues.

Poor schools tell students to BYO desk

The grandmother of Wang Ziqi, a primary school student, carries a table on Saturday, while his sister carries his schoolbag and a stool on the way to school in Shunhe township. Photo by Wang Zheng / ChangJiang Times

Poor schools tell students to BYO desk

Wang Ziqi holds toys donated by charity groups in a classroom in Shunhe township on Saturday. Photo by Wang Zheng / ChangJiang Times

Contact the writers at luowangshu@chinadaily.com.cn and zhoulihua@chinadaily.com.cn

Da Wenjiao contributed to this story.