As we account for the educational achievements of our recently graduated scholars, we feel very grateful for all of your support over the last 15 months (or more!). So once more, we would like to reiterate our thanks to you for your donations.
Since the last report, we have finished our follow-up of this year’s round of students, which is three-fold. The Gaokao, the Chinese high school graduation exam which is obligatory for students wishing to continue their higher education, took place on the 7th and 8th of June. This year, we had a total of 18 scholars taking it. They worked very hard, and we are confident that, as we have noted in past years, they will have a success rate superior to 50 per cent, much higher than the average rate in the region’s public high schools. In order to better orient the students, we have put new, stricter rules into place, which give the students greater incentive to apply to state universities or recognized vocational schools. This measure discourages them from applying to expensive private schools, or schools of a lower quality, due to lack of information on China’s educational opportunities for high school graduates. We are currently awaiting the results of the Gaokao which we will include in the next report.
The second aspect of the follow-up concerns those who graduated from university or vocational school. At the end of the 2009-2010 academic year, 14 scholars terminated their studies. Twelve of them have already found employment despite China's dangerously tightening job market. Their success reinforces our belief in the cause that we have been supporting with you over the past decade (already!), and gives us a very positive vision of the future of all the other scholars. With such good results, we have decided to draw up profiles of the graduates, so as to better grasp their path as a whole. Unfortunately, all these portraits could not fit into this report, so we have included only one, for it epitomizes the association's aims and purpose. It is the portrait of Yang Xia, who was among the first students supported by the association. You can find her profile in the annex at the end of the report.
Finally, the follow-up also included a collection of the new scholarship applications, which we did in the two missions to Ningxia that took place in June and in July. We'd like to take a moment to thank two people for the excellent organization of these two field trips: Marie Dejardin and Florian Jamet. Marie, who was a student in Beijing, helped the association throughout the school year and was responsible for the direct sponsorships, while Florian provided the association with intensive support during the summer. During these two trips, they received more than 30 new applications, mostly from high school and university students. A lot of these applications, unfortunately, fit the association's criteria for giving scholarships, and we don't doubt that there are many more students living in very harsh conditions, which would lead to dropping out of school for lack of means. The association is currently doing everything possible to raise the necessary funds to match all these new potential scholars’ needs, but we simply cannot take on any new scholars if we don't feel we can support them throughout their entire scolarity. Once more, we are hoping to count on your dedication and ability to help us support these children whose only dream is to pull their families out of poverty. Their future is at stake.
During our ten years in Ningxia, we have observed and reported on evolutions Chinese educational policies, which for the most part tend toward more support for poor regions, especially with regards to primary and secondary level education. Such measures show that the authorities have finally decided to tackle the obvious and inequitable lack of opportunities for rural and poor urban youngsters. However, the seemingly slight economic contraction that came as a consequence of the world financial and economic crisis, coupled with the ever-increasing number of university graduates each year, has caused the number and the ratio of unemployed university graduates to soar since 2008. With 6 million higher education graduates every year, the percentage of unemployed graduates is now approximately 30 per cent in some regions! This shockingly high number has caught the attention of economists and historians specializing in China, as it recalls the events of Tian An Men, whose cause was, among others, a lack of job opportunities for the 15-24 year old age group. Furthermore, the social contract between the Chinese Communist Party and the students was based on a promise by the successive governments that if students work hard, the government would provide them with good jobs. Thus, such a dynamic of the labour markets has led the central government to double educational fees on all the public high schools. In Ningxia province, the fees have gone from 1,450 RMB in 2009-2010 to 2,500 RMB in 2010-2011. Together with higher support to primary and secondary schools and students, this measure has caused the number of high school students applying for scholarships offered by Children of Ningxia to soar. During the few days in which the applications could be deposited, students came from all over the region, sometimes travelling hours by foot or motorcycle, and some arrived as late as midnight! Thus, our pool of scholars has significantly moved toward high school and university, for which the cost of supporting a student is much higher, while the total number of supported students has slightly decreased since the 2009-2010 peak.
As for the other changes within the association, in addition to the arrival of a new project coordinator, Blandine Ricouart, who has replaced Laurent Peyrot, as we noted in the last report, we would like to thank Cyrielle Nifle for her indefatigable presence since the beginning of the summer. She has been volunteering since early July and rightly deserves our sincere gratitude.
We have also been working with Doctors Without Borders in order to put into place a partnership program targeting pregnant women, who mostly give birth without medical assistance at home, and their children. Such a partnership would combine Children of Ningxia's knowledge of the population with the technical skills and motivation of Doctors Without Borders. It is now planned that a gynecologist will visit Ningxia in September 2011 to evaluate the needs and constraints that such a program has to take into account.
If you know the association's history, you might be wondering what has happened to the little school of Liumiao Cun. Following the administrative fusion of the villages of Hequ, Liumiao and Wantuan, the Educational Bureau of Tongxin decided to no longer support the school. In three years, the number of students fell from 120 to 20, and there is only one teacher left, Zhao Xin Xia. While the villagers laud her as a teacher, Zhao Xin Xia's salary was apparently not decided based upon her ability to teach, and she earns a mere 600 RMB per month, and is paid 8 months per year. Fortunately, the Earthpulse Foundation, which already supports 19 students from Ningxia with us, has kindly accepted to give her a hand, and her salary should be complemented by the foundation, so as to be paid over 12 months, and hopefully increased to 800 RMB per month.
Finally, we would like, once more, to thank you, who, from wherever you are and whatever you earn, have taken the individual and benevolent decision to support our activities. Philosophers may say that one decision is no better than another, but that is why we do everything within our reach (and beyond) to make sure that your decision is the right one, and will stay so for the sake of the Children of Ningxia.