Helping girls to go to school
In the villages in the mountains of northern Guangxi, and especially in the Great Miao Mountains, many girls from ethnic minorities do not get the chance to go to school or have to drop out of school because their families are so poor. The available farmland scarcely provides enough food for the family throughout the year. Apart from growing rice for food they have practically no other source of income. They have great difficulty in sending their children to school. Schooling in China is admittedly now free, but the associated expense for sending a child to school can represent a significant part or their annual income (as much as 30 € to 60 €). If the parents do try to send their children to school, despite their financial difficulties, they will tend to give priority to the boys. The girls are expected to look after the cows and the ducks and to help ou around the house. In most villages many of the women are illiterate and do not speak Chinese. Since 1998 the association has been trying to assist as many school age children as possible, especially girls, of the region of the Great Miao Mountains in the north of Guangxi to have access to primary school education for six years and lower secondary for a further three years. The brightest students receive support to continue into upper secondary and some ten students have gone on to university.
Construction and refurbishment of schools
The association also contributes to the construction and refurbishment of schools, dormitories and playgrounds, and provides school materials, furniture, blackboards and satchels.
Support for teachers Most of the local teachers ,who have no permanent status, receive a salary which is not enough to support the family, whilst they can only work in the fields during the holidays. Further study is necessary to upgrade their skills, thus enabling them to receive a higher salary, but in most cases it is simply not feasible. Couleurs de Chine supports those in greatest difficulty.
Preserving traditional culture The aim of the association is also to help the local population preserve their cultural heritage via the maintenance, restoration or reconstruction of community structures in the villages such as the “Drum towers” of the Dong, and also by encouraging the wearing of traditional costume, and performing music and dance in schools. Support for cultural activities comes from donations that are specifically earmarked for the purpose.
Most sponsors commit to sponsoring their children over several years. For the 2008-09 school year 5500 students enjoy the association’s support. It is intended to extend activity to all villages of the region where children do not have access to education, so that a majority might at least complete six years primary schooling. The association’s activity has developed very rapidly since in 2000 only 1000 children were being sponsored. The number of villages has increased In particular in Rongshui district and Sanjiang district (in the north of Guangxi province) and Congjiang district (south-east Guizhou province). Moreover, the association also enables the more motivated students to attend boarding school (lower and upper secondary) in the region, as well as sending the brightest students to university.