HEIs spearheading China's efforts to eliminate poverty

Source: China Education Daily

October 17 marks China’s sixth National Poverty Relief Day. On October 15, the Chinese Ministry of Education (MOE) held a press briefing in Beijing, presenting China’s efforts to implement the “poverty alleviation through education” strategy, particularly the leading role higher education institutions (HEIs) had played in poverty reduction. Directors and heads of relevant educational agencies including the MOE’s Development Planning Department, Sichuan University, Northwest Agriculture and Forestry University and Hebei Agriculture University attended the briefing. 

The MOE has been committed to carrying out President Xi’s guidance on poverty relief work and steadfastly pursued the goal of reducing poverty through education. A wide range of measures have been taken, such as building a support system for the provision of targeted educational assistance, tailoring educational policies to each economically disadvantaged region, and establishing one-on-one (1-1) support arrangements between universities and the poverty-stricken areas, while significant progress has been achieved. In particular, the MOE-affiliated HEIs that were appointed by the Central Government to undertake poverty alleviation action in places affected by poverty nationwide have constituted a groundswell force at the forefront of poverty eradication.

CHAO Guiming of the Development Planning Department under MOE said that, a total of 75 MOE-affiliated HEIs have been assigned with poverty relief tasks since 2012, including 44 institutions of technology to provide support in key poverty-ridden counties and 22 other institutions to help reduce poverty in the west part of Yunnan Province. This year, another 19 HEIs have been selected to help lift people out of poverty in designated high-poverty counties by adopting the 1-1 support model. Besides, HEIs operated under provincial governments have also been deeply engaged in combatting poverty within their provinces. All these HEIs have made impressive achievements through continuous innovation of approaches to poverty alleviation and the organization of a large variety of poverty relief activities.

Sichuan University had organized experts to assist the Ganluo County in Sichuan Province in developing 139 specialized plans for subordinated counties, towns and villages and trained over 3,200 local Party officials, elementary and middle school teachers, agricultural technicians and medical personnel during 7 years. Currently, the county’s per capita income has increased from RMB 2,230 in 2015 to nearly RMB 7,000. From 2014 to 2018, 172 villages comprising 13,491 households or 63,047 people had been lifted out of poverty, with the poverty incidence dropping from 31.88% to 3.72%.

Northwest Agriculture and Forestry University explored new ground in terms of targeted anti-poverty programs. The university set up three groups consisting of Party secretaries, professors, and graduate students, respectively, to ensure full support coverage, while their designated destination Heyang County in Shaanxi Province organized a team of high-caliber talent, to coordinate with the three groups in creating a permanent local talent pipeline. This innovative model of poverty reduction has been praised as a positive example of best practices.

Hebei Agriculture University strived to accelerate shifting poverty alleviation from funding and donations to capacity building for wealth creation, by integrating their teaching and research efforts with public services. The faculty and students of the university exerted full support for the brand development of the Taihang Mountains agricultural innovation project. Over two years, the project had built 50 agricultural innovation sites in the Taihang mountainous region of Hebei Province, spanning an area of 86,000 mu or around 14167 acres and involving 35 specialty sectors such as production of fruits, vegetables, edible fungi, and animal husbandry. More than 100 new technologies or research outcomes had been applied at the sites, bringing higher income to 70,000 local agricultural households. 

Statistics show that in 2018, the HEIs conducted 3,394 field surveys in total, providing supervision and support services for 131 times and 139 faculty members to serve as officials in their designated counties, including 55 persons as major secretary of village Party committees. 44 MOE-affiliated HEIs invested a total amount of RMB 138 million and leveraged RMB 1.318 billion of support funds, while purchasing RMB 123 million of agricultural goods and assisting in the sales of RMB 327 million worth agricultural goods. They also offered training to 23,400 primary level Party officials and 37,300 technicians. In 2019, 1.22 million teachers and students were sent to former revolutionary base areas, areas afflicted by poverty and certain urban and rural communities, where 238,000 innovation or start-up programs were conducted, benefiting 74,800 agricultural households and 24,200 local enterprises and generating about RMB 6.4 billion in economic benefits. So far, the list of 44 appointed poverty counties has shrunk by 20.