A total of 120,000 students in China's quake-hit areas started their three-day national college entrance exam on Thursday morning, which was delayed about a month after the May 12 earthquake.
Among them were 96,000 students from 45 counties in Sichuan Province, and 24,000 from 17 counties in Gansu Province. In total, they make up 1.1 percent of all senior high school graduates attending the college entrance exam this year.
About 78 percent of them will attend the most important exam in their lives in makeshift classrooms, which were fitted with air conditioners.
"Do not talk with the examinees about the earthquake," is the advice given to proctors in a manual.
In the Changhong Training Center venue in Mianyang city of Sichuan, 935 examinees from the worst-hit Beichuan county sat for the exam.
"What they are faced is not only the exam but the dreadful memories of the earthquake," said a proctor surnamed Liu.
He and other proctors have been trained in evacuating examinees. If an aftershock occurs, two proctors in each makeshift classroom will lead examinees outside, and take care of their exam papers.
Helicopters were used for the first time to ferry exam papers in 13 exam venues in Aba prefecture in Sichuan, said Zhou Xinbin, an official with the provincial education and examination institute.
"Roads to these venues were either blocked or threatened by the earthquake, and we are afraid landslides and cave-ins may occur while transporting exam papers," Zhou said.
Four helicopters carried 4,000 sets of exam papers to these areas, and armed police took care of them before the exam started.
The earthquake zones have been granted a college enrollment rate of 2 percent more than the previous plan. The Ministry of Education has asked the country's 1,000-plus institutions of higher learning to increase their enrollment quota for the quake-hit areas.
(Xinhua News Agency July 3, 2008)