(Yicai Global) Jan.22 -- The Jack Ma Foundation ("The Foundation") announced yesterday (January 21) its support to upgrade rural Chinese boarding school facilities as part of its mission to bring better education to millions of children across China. The initiative and the Jack Ma Foundation's financial support will provide better educational access to Chinese students travel long distances to school and contribute to fighting rural poverty through educational opportunity.
Jack Ma, executive chairman of Alibaba Group and founder of the Foundation announced the initiative during the Foundation's "Rural Teacher Award" ceremony held yesterday in Sanya, Hainan Province to honor 100 outstanding teachers with awards of totaling RMB10 million. These teachers shared their experiences with 80 leading Chinese entrepreneurs who attended to learn about the Foundation's efforts to promote rural education.
China's government has made efforts to improve rural education over the past two decades by combining small village schools that often grouped students of different ages into larger schools that can attract better teachers and allow students to learn alongside similar age students. As more Chinese families have migrated to urban areas, declining student populations and fewer resources have strained China's smaller village schools.
As a result, millions rural Chinese students travel up to four or five hours to attend schools and often spend the week boarding at schools away from home. Village primary school students travel an average of 5.4 kilometers to attend school, while junior high school students travel an average of 17.5 kilometers to attend school, according to government statistics for 2016.
The Foundation's new initiative will support improved quality of life for these rural students by upgrading rural boarding facilities with better bedding, dining, and transportation for students. This will greatly improve their quality of life and their ability to focus on their studies.
"A sustainable approach to alleviating poverty begins with education," Jack Ma said in his address to the teachers and entrepreneurs. "One of the gravest problems rural education faces is addressing impoverished communities where student enrollment rates are low and some schools can have two teachers for around 10 students of widely different ages."
"We should close schools with less than 100 students to improve educational standards and create more opportunity for rural students," Mr. Ma added. "We must promote better boarding facilities so these rural students can succeed. Our goal with this initiative is to make a real impact on rural schools and encourage China's entrepreneurs to play an important role in the fight against poverty and take responsibility for improving society."
As part of its efforts to improve rural education, the Foundation has worked with its partner on a pilot program at two primary schools in Guizhou province to demonstrate the impact better resources can have on education outcomes in rural China.
This latest initiative follows similar programs for teachers in remote areas. In December last year, the Foundation pledged RMB300 million over the next ten years to encourage top education studies graduates in China to pursue teaching careers in rural areas. In July 2016, the Foundation also pledged to donate RMB200 million in the next 10 years to help train principals and educational leaders in remote villages and towns.
Mr. Ma, a former school teacher himself and passionate advocate for rural education, is also Chairman of Alibaba Poverty Relief Fund recently established by Alibaba Group. The Fund has pledged RMB10 billion in the next five years to support poverty relief and village development initiatives. The Fund will work with the Jack Ma Foundation to improve rural education for the millions of children that live in rural Chinese villages.
About the Jack Ma Foundation
The Jack Ma Foundation is a charitable organization started in 2014 by the Founder and Executive Chairman of Alibaba Group. The Foundation aims to promote human potential and the protection of the environment. From education to environment issues, public health and personnel development, the foundation intends to raise social awareness and foster responsibility to cultivate an innovative and sustainable model for the development of a better world. For more information, please visit: http://www.jackmafoundation.org.cn.