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Higher Learning Dilemma> Archive
UPDATED: September 15, 2009 NO. 37 SEPTEMBER 17, 2009
Should Poor Students Have Luxury Schooling?


It is called the most beautiful Hope school in China. Located at the foot of the mountains of southwest China's Chongqing Municipality, the primary school has a sweeping view of the Yangtze River. Built with a 3.5-million-yuan ($512,445) donation from the China Overseas Group, the officially named China Overseas Three Gorges Hope School accommodates 531 migrant students, in grand luxury.

The investor, China Overseas Group, said they hope to offer these children the best school possible, with equipment so modern that it is said the school will not be outdated for the next 50 years.

The budget of 3.5 million yuan is not a small sum and has raised the ire of people across the spectrum of society. Many say it is a waste of limited education resources. After all, with the average school costing 200,000 yuan ($29,282), 3.5 million yuan could build up to 17 ordinary Hope schools. Hope schools are built for children in impoverished areas. With so many children in backward regions still having no schoolhouses, people see this extravagant school as a way for the investor to show off.

At the same time, some people argue that although most of the existing Hope schools are built at much lower cost, it is the investor's right to have the Three Gorges Hope School built to their liking. Supporters say children in impoverished areas should also have the right to enjoy learning in a luxurious school.

Students deserve the best

Wang Dan (Yanzhao Metropolis Daily): If this Hope school is built to enhance the investor's reputation, it is something we are obviously against. However, we seem to have missed the context of this investment: it is not a public charity action, but a private action conducted by the Hong Kong-based company. The company said, "We hope the best school for children in the mountains will encourage more people to take part in the Hope project." The 3.5-million-yuan investment means that this school will offer "the best" environment for the students to study and live, so that they can enjoy school life as much as possible.

Due to the long-term serious shortage of rural education, in the past donations for Hope schools have been used on school buildings alone. The establishment of this "luxurious school" only shows that rural children deserve better school equipment and not just school buildings.

Mao Jianguo (www.xinhuanet.com): Many of those who criticize this "beautiful school" might have a wrong understanding of what a Hope school is, believing that it should not be beautiful or well equipped. Actually, a Hope school should not be a shabby place. For so many years, we are told that a Hope school will only cost 200,000 yuan, but this is only the minimum investment. If there is enough money, why do we stick to the minimum standard? Why not build the school as beautiful as possible?

Schools should be the safest and most beautiful place in any region. Nevertheless, due to limited investment in education and in order for donations to build as many Hope schools as possible, the minimum investment of 200,000 yuan was proposed and followed.

We hope that more children will have school buildings and can sit in safe and beautiful schools. The China Overseas Three Gorges Hope School has set an example, showing us that Hope schools can be as beautiful as this.

Liu Hongbo (Shanghai Morning Post): Anyone who makes a donation has the right to choose how they want their money spent. If they can't spend the money in the way they like, we'll see fewer and fewer charity donations in the future.

The China Overseas Group has already said, "as long as we have the resources, we'll try to provide the best thing for the children." If we keep questioning the motives behind the big donations and the way it is used, potential donors might give up their plans to also help.

Maybe many people are still confused with two concepts: government investment and social investment. As for the government, when making an investment on a project, it must put fairness and frugality first, and trying to make the best use of the investment. However, for private donors, the most important thing is whether the investment will be spent in the way they likes.

In order to reach equality and fairness, some people may argue that the 3.5-million yuan worth of investment should set up 17 Hope schools. Others will say that it's still not fair enough, and the donation should be handed to the Central Government rather than any local government. As a result, no one will do charity work.

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