Old to new: Complete transformation
Dabai Primary School is in a mountain village just 42 kilometers from Kunming, a city of 3.75 million. Measured by the facilities and educational standards of city schools, it might just as well be 42 light years away.
In many if not all respects, Dabai is typical of many Chinese rural schools CSF staff have visited – leaking roofs, crumbling foundations, broken windows and deteriorating walls. Also like many rural schools, apart from textbooks there were no resources to promote learning – no books, science apparatus, materials to teach music and art classes, and almost no sports equipment.
CSF’s selection of Dabai as a project school was motivated, among other things, by the Education Bureau’s intention to close the school and move its young students to a township school. Why uproot 150 happy students and their teachers from their homey, community school? Why expend ¥500,000 (US$73,000) of the Education Bureau’s budget for new construction when the existing school could be renovated to like-new condition for a fraction of the cost?
After some months of discussion, the Education Bureau agreed to partner with CSF in a comprehensive school improvement program at Dabai. School renovation costs were shared between the two parties, and CSF funded and implemented all the other aspects of the project. The Education Bureau undertook repairs and CSF began its work of sourcing teaching and learning materials and developing a professional development (teacher training) program. CSF’s contribution of ¥110,00 (US$16,000), about 20 percent of the cost of a new school building alone, covered infrastructure improvements, a 1,000-book library, science apparatus, music instruments, sports equipment, art and stationery supplies, and a host of other learning materials. CSF’s teacher training programs will be provided at no additional cost as they are produced.
The results have been celebrated by Education Department personnel, local government officials and, most importantly, teachers and students. The school facility at Dabai is as good as new and, as the principal observed, is resourced “better than the city schools.” Most importantly, the Education Bureau requested that CSF provide them with a set of sample resources so that they could be purchased for other schools in the district. This is a direct example – one among others – of the ‘multiplier effect’ our programs can have in fostering progressive education.
After signing a contract with CSF’s Bob Green (center), assisted by translator Gu Guo Xing (left), and Hwang Hong Tao (right) of the Kunming Education Department chose the first day of school, 1 September 2008, as the date for a ceremony marking the handover of CSF’s funding. In speaking to the assembled school community and guests, he explained his choice of the ceremony date as follows: “This example of helping others is the most important lesson of the school year for the Dabai students.”
Dabai School Project Ceremony, September 1, 2008