SOLEMN SALUTE: PLA soldiers attend a flag raising ceremony on May 24, together with the pupils of a temporary tent primary school in Qingchuan County, Sichuan Province
"The students of Beichuan Middle School who survived the earthquake should be more strong-minded," said Li Xiumei, a student of the school, at a ceremony to mark the resumption of classes on May 19, seven days after the earthquake.
Beichuan Middle School was hit severely during the May 12 quake. Of 2,900 students and teachers at the school around 1,300 were killed or went missing and the school was virtually reduced to ruins. On the second day after the earthquake, Premier Wen Jiabao visited the school, returning twice more in the following weeks to examine the progress of rescue and relief work.
At 9:30 a.m. on May 19, 508 surviving grade-three students of Beichuan Middle School were standing in the playground for the class resumption ceremony. The students sang the Chinese national anthem, some with tears streaming down their faces. Their new classroom is a tent set up dozens of kilometers from the original site.
Many schools in the quake-hit areas have already resumed classes. "I am so happy that the students are recovering from the sadness of the earthquake and becoming more positive and optimistic," said Shen Heyong, a professor of psychology who has been working in Beichuan Middle School as a volunteer.
According to information from the Education Department of Sichuan Province on May 22, students from most of the quake-hit areas have resumed education. The majority of students in Beichuan, Wenchuan and Yingxiu have been transferred to Chengdu, capital city of the province, and others are being taught in temporary tent classrooms.
On May 26, the Ministry of Education (MOE) set out detailed plans to help children return to school.
At the end of May, the Ministry of Finance and the MOE allocated 53 million yuan ($7.6 million) to the quake-hit areas, among which 20 million yuan ($2.8 million) was earmarked specifically for temporary primary and middle schools.
Back to school
After the earthquake, about 850 survivors from the severely hit areas were transferred to a home for the aged in Xindu District, Chengdu. Among various problems with their resettlement, finding a way for the children to resume school was a crucial one.
The education authorities of Xindu District promptly set up a school for the displaced children. The local education bureau appointed a headmaster with rich experience in education and 20 teachers. They also arranged two teachers whose job was to comfort distraught students. The school opened on May 18 and 166 students, some of whom had lost their parents in the quake, were able to restart their education.
"I can't believe that the government has been able to provide us with food and shelter within such short time, and bring my brother back to the classroom again," said 19-year-old Yao Xiaohong, who comes from Wenchuan County. Yao and her brother have not seen their parents since the earthquake.