OPINION Chen WeihuaCommentaryChina WatchForum DigestsColumnistsLettersVideosPhotosDont want to be born a rural childBy Chen Weihua (China Daily)Updated: 2009-04-11 08:13My daughter has kept sighing in the past week about what it means to be born a rural girl. We have been traveling across the vast mountainous countryside in Fujian province, meeting farmers picking tealeaves and hakka people dwelling in 500-year-old round earth buildings, which American spy satellites in the 1980s suspected to be giant missile-launch sites.”Dad, I feel so fortunate that I was not born here and dont live here. Men are surely not born equal,” said my daughter, after we joined local villagers picking tealeaves for an hour, our backs paining.It was a good learning process for both of us. But in the hilly tea fields, village boys and girls as young as seven were working with their parents in the scorching sun for a whole day. Yes, it was already burning on a sunny afternoon in Fujian in early April.The early spring tealeaves are worth more, but still sell for only 8 to 10 yuan per kilogram. In a few weeks time, the price could plummet to as low as 2 yuan per kilo after the best tea-picking season has passed.The elementary school in the village was built with donations from an overseas Chinese originally from the area, with only three teachers and 25 first and second graders. Other graders have to attend schools in another village or town.Though tuition is only a couple of hundred yuan, most village children have to drop out either after elementary school or junior middle school because of poor academic performance or because their families are too poor to support several children in school at the same time.In the villages we visited, many 15- and 16-year-olds have already left home to work in cities. Many women in their early 20s have already become mothers, some to two or three babies.The village has no Internet access, making us urban folks addicted to life in cyber space feeling totally isolated from the rest of the world.After doing a bit of calculation, both of us believe that an urban child, like my daughter, would spend more in a day than what a rural family of three earns by picking tealeaves for 12 hours.And the entire sum of money spent on 50 village students would be much less than the amount earmarked for a student in a top middle school in Shanghai.A lack of education and other resources simply means that rural children are left behind since the day they are born.The plight of farmers and the huge gap between rural and urban areas have been a hot topic for many years. A root cause of many of the countrys key social issues, if not solved, is destined to undermine the nations future.So while governments, corporations and interest groups are fighting for the 4 trillion yuan central government stimulus fund to salvage the economy from a global economic recession, I believe 4 trillion yuan or more put aside for the poor countryside would have more profound meaning for the nations future than securing an 8-percent GDP growth in 2009.It would mean that with better schooling, rural women would be like their urban sisters and not choose to start motherhood at such an early age and not have several children.Rural children would also be more or less on an equal footing with their urban peers at an early age.The rural workforce would be better prepared to take up increasingly sophisticated manufacturing jobs they now find it so difficult to handle.The countryside we have experienced in the past week is beautiful. Its fresh air and gorgeous scenery are soothing to the eyes, body and mind. But the life of rural children or farmers in these mountainous regions never made us feel relaxed.chenweihua@chinadaily.com.cn(China Daily 04/11/2009 page4)

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