[2011-09-15] President Steve Ting visited Tongqianguan Central SchoolPresident Steve Ting visited Tongqianguan Central School in Shaanxi Province on Sept. 15, 2011. The purpose was to inspect the school current conditions per a request from a potential foundation donor (PLUS Charitable Trust), which is interested in providing funds to build a multi-purpose school building for this elementary school.
Shaanxi school (Tongqianguan Central School 铜钱关镇中心小学) visit daily trip report – September 15, 2011 Issued by Steve Ting
Since a donor from PLUS Foundation (which has been working with Shin Shin for reconstructing 9 schools or school buildings so far) has expressed interest to provide funding to reconstruct a multi-function school building for an elementary school in Shaanxi (陕西), the purpose of today’s trip is to investigate if such a school is qualified so that we’ll be prepared when and if our Foundation receives the donation.
-Due to an extreme and terrible road condition, it took us four hours of driving through potholes, winding and muddy mountain road, to reach the school located on top of the hill. In certain section of this muddy road with mountain on one side and the cliff and wild running river on the other, we encountered several significant mudslides as well as huge rocks sitting in the middle of the road. The trip was very dangerous and quite an experience.
-The school is called Tongqianguan Central Elementary School (铜钱关镇中心小学) in Xunyang County (旬阳县). According to Principal Chu (储校长), the school has the population of 229 (169 of grade 1 to 6 and 60 pre-school students) with 17 teachers. Close to 100 students stay in school from one week to the whole semester. The school is designated for long term use (永久保留学校). The township (铜钱关镇) has total population of 6,100 with 5,800 farmers. The annual per capita net income is about 2,000 RMB.
-The total size of the school is 6,858 square meters with 1,598 square meters school buildings. It has been decided that one of the buildings (危房) is unlivable and needs to be torn down and turn into a multi-function building (综合楼) for kitchen, canteen and dormitory use. The size of this two-story building will be 760 square meters, with 13 rooms. The total investment is 1.27 million RMB. 1 million RMB has been budgeted by the local government with the funding shortage of 270,000 RMB to complete the whole project. The construction has started with anticipated completion by the end of this year. If the funding shortage is not resolved, this building will be either left incomplete or the school will owe money to the construction company, according to the local educational bureau leader Mr. Xiong (教育局熊本奇局长，旬阳县). This practice seems to be odd, but this is common in rural regions per Mdm. Wang (王爱祯) of Shaanxi QB and Mr. Xiong.
-Mr. Xiong highlighted that there are 22 central elementary schools (中心学校), one per each townships (镇) in the county (旬阳县), 55 complete elementary schools (完小) and 147 educational locations (教学点) in even more remote areas for grade 1-2 students. He pointed out that he was not only thankful if our Foundation could consider providing grants for building construction for this school, but very impressed by our ongoing involvement such as the facility improvement and educational initiatives. According to him, this type of continuous and useful effort is very different from most of other charity organizations.
-While waiting for the new multi-function building to be completed, the classrooms are divided up into two halves with chairs/desks for learning and bunker beds for sleeping. Each bed sleeps two children. By seeing this unbearable situation and surrounded by many beautiful, cheerful children and dedicated teachers, our hearts were just broken. There are roughly 100 students staying in school during school season.
-Few more things we learned from this trip.
-There is a highway being constructed and it is projected to complete by the end of this year. If so, it’ll be much more reasonable to reach this school in the future.
-Students who stay in school receive 3 meals worth 27-29 RMB (depending on the grade) weekly, per the school. We were concerned if this will be reasonable for a decent and nutritious meal for children.
-Shaanxi Government has implemented an “Egg and Milk Program” (蛋奶计划) which provides milk and egg to each elementary student for free. I was very happy to hear this. I’ll find out if there is a similar program in other provinces.
After the visit, Mr. Donald Chu (Chairman, PLUS Foundation, and President and CEO of Tronex) and I discussed and shared our experience. Both of us were impressed by the local government leaders, the principal and the teachers who we met. And we were moved by what we saw. Mr. Chu will bring the relevant info back to his Foundation and the Board of Trustees to determine if they’ll make the donation to fill the funding shortage gap. He expects a decision one way or another in 2-3 weeks. We spent time to discuss Shin Shin’s follow-up programs (facility improvement and educational initiatives). I encourage him and his Foundation to also make donations to support these programs. Hsiao Tien, would you help to follow this school construction project up?
Tomorrow, we’ll again head out early in the morning to visit two Shin Shin schools. We look forward to it.