Podcast: Story in the Story (1/7/2020 Tue.)
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From the People's Daily App.

This is Story in the Story.

What does a kitchen garden mean to children in a rural primary school in China? To Principal Yang Peng, it makes the school feel like home. 

Yang heads a primary boarding school with 360 students in Heping Township, Sanjiang Dong Autonomous County in south China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region. One out of every five students at the school is a "left-behind" child, whose parents are migrant workers in cities far away from home. 

As China's Ministry of Education and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) has been jointly carrying out the Whole School Environment Improvement project across the country. 

In the garden at Heping Primary School, vines wind up the fence and one can see melons hanging, passion fruit shining and garden tools sprinkling water across the landscape. The garden has become a children's playground. 

Each class has its own vegetable plot where students have a weekly class led by their head teacher. 

"The kitchen garden not only helps them understand farm culture, but also makes their school life more fun," Yang said. 

Today’s Story in the Story looks at how the positive changes have made rural students feel less lonely being away from their parents.


Photo taken on Oct. 30, 2019 shows the teaching building at the Second Primary School in Doujiang Township of Sanjiang Dong Autonomous County, south China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region. (Photo: Xinhua)

"Farming education into schooling" stems from the implementation of the campaign of building a "Beautiful School" project in Sanjiang County. 

In 2006, a "Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) in Schools" program was jointly implemented by the Ministry of Education and UNICEF to provide safe drinking water, improve sanitation facilities and promote hygienic behavior at schools in rural areas of the country's less developed central and western regions. 

In 2013, it evolved into a WASH-led Whole School Environment Improvement project, including health, nutrition, environment and climate education and disaster management. 

From 2013 to 2016, Sanjiang County invested more than 11.8 million yuan in hygienic toilet construction and renovation in 108 schools. 

The "Toilet Revolution" turned out to be a success and Sanjiang County wished to go further. 

The Whole School Environment Improvement project was expanded to school construction, ecological awareness and other aspects, in an effort to build a "Beautiful School," said Long Huaiyi, head of the county's education bureau. 

"Many students are left to stay with their grandparents. Some only have their mothers at home, as their fathers have left for better-paying jobs in bigger cities. They do not have enough care and guidance from both their parents," said Yu Bin, head teacher of class one, grade six at Heping Primary School.


Students leave classrooms after class at the Second Primary School in Doujiang Township of Sanjiang Dong Autonomous County, south China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, Oct. 30, 2019. (Photo: Xinhua) 

Yu, 27, teaches during the day and takes care of the children at night. She also leads students to clean the toilets and dorms and also works as an art teacher. "It makes me a bit busy," she said. 

"Building a 'Beautiful School' campaign gives children a second home," she said. 

The Second Primary School in Doujiang Town also joined the campaign of building a "Beautiful School" project, with a focus on girls' physical health. 

Principal Lu Guilian gives lectures every semester on physical health for girls aged between 9 and 12, who are entering puberty. 

"The panic the girls experience made me realize that I need to educate them more on their bodies, " Lu said. 

Teachers are like parents to the students at the boarding school. "Being closest to them, we are obligated to take good care of them," said Lu. 

The school environment improvement project has been launched in five western provincial-level regions of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, Chongqing Municipality, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, Guizhou and Yunnan provinces, benefiting more than 150,000 students in 300 plus schools. 

No school has yet to receive the full score of five stars. 

"We would like to try," said Yang, the principal of Heping Primary School which has four stars, adding that he just wants to keep getting it better for the children. 

(Produced by Nancy Yan Xu, Brian Lowe, Lance Crayon and Elaine Yue Lin. Music by: bensound.com. Text from Xinhua.)