Local Travel Organization Helps Build Primary School in China

September 13, 2007 (PRLEAP.COM) Education News
David Snyder, founder and president of Travel Adventures, Inc., recently traveled to China to visit Nanjia Primary School in the remote northern province of Gansu.

Nanjia Primary School has eight classrooms serving 300 plus first through fifth grade students from the nearby mountains and a mountain community. The contributions to build the school came from Travel Adventures (two classrooms), Oprah Winfrey (five classrooms), and collected contributions of Canadian teachers and students (one classroom), through the Free The Children organization.

Free The Children was founded by 12-year-old Craig Kielburger in 1995 when he gathered 11 school friends to begin fighting child labor. Today, Free The Children is the largest network of children helping children through education in the world, with more than one million young people involved in programs in 45 countries.

"I first head Craig Kielburger speak at a conference a year ago. I was simply blown away by how much a 23-year old university student had accomplished in his life. The measure of this young man that most amazed me was that he had been nominated three times for the Nobel Peace Prize. As the leader of a company that serves schools, I wanted our company to be as helpful as possible to Free the Children and its school-building effort."

David began his journey with a two hour flight from Beijing to Lanzhou, the capital of Gansu. Gansu is a mountainous province in North Central China, just south of Inner Mongolia. It is also one of the poorest of China’s 36 provinces. Next, he and his guide traveled for more than seven hours to Li County by automobile.

“Li County is a community of a half million residents in about 1400 square miles—an area about double the size of Lapeer County,” explained David.

Li County has 530 primary schools (Grades 1-5), 30 middle schools (Grades 6-8) and three high schools (Grades 9-11). There are also more than 100,000 students eligible to attend school. Supposedly, all of the students attend elementary and middle school. However, David discovered during the trip that only about 70 percent of the middle school-aged children actually attend school.

More alarming is the fact that only about five percent of the students attend high school because it is a tuition based program and very few parents can afford the $250 yearly fee. Tuition alone is about three times the average family’s yearly earnings.

David visited the school accompanied by representatives from Free The Children and the Ministry of Education. Because they were the first foreigners to ever visit Nanjia, the group was greeted by hundreds of the local residents as they approached the school.

Their first view of Nanjia Primary School was of the large brick wall surrounding the school containing a three-foot high Chinese inscription: “Knowledge can give you a bright life. Knowledge can give you a great future.”

"I was really impressed by how a donation from our company and other organizations could impact the current and future generations of Chinese youth. There are so many places in the world where our support can produce similar results. Free the Children is currently building schools in Kenya, Sierra Leone, Ecuador, China, and (next year) India. The organization has built approximately 500 schools around the world to date."

When the visitors reached the school they were greeted by about 60 students, the headmaster and a teacher as well as parents from the community. They were given a tour of the garden and courtyard, the eight classrooms, the five dormitories used to house the teachers, and the bricked-in play yard. Throughout the tour they posed for pictures with the students.

The group concluded their trip to Li County with a visit to Wenjia Primary School, a Free The Children school built three years ago, and a mountaintop Daoist Temple.

“This was one of the most thrilling experiences in my life. I will never forget the expressions of happiness on the faces of the children and the personal pleasure gained from knowing that we can truly make a difference in the lives of others.”

More information on Free The Children can be found at www.freethechildren.com