“Technology is like a money tree, whereas the absence of technology is as bare as a locust tree,” Luo Mingquan. a student who came to the teaching practice base for kiwi fruit cultivation of the Open University of China (OUC) in Jiangjun Village, Yuanba Township, Cangxi County, Sichuan Province, said jokingly to Yan Shugui, a local expert giving a live lecture on kiwi fruit pruning technology.

Luo Mingquan is a beneficiary of the Long March Belt Educational Project Targeted at Alleviating Poverty of the Ministry of Education. In order to bring its rich educational resources and systematic operation platform into full play, the OUC launched and implemented the Long March Belt Educational Project Targeted at Alleviating Poverty. Since April 2017, poverty alleviation through education has been carried out in 25 national poverty-stricken counties in 12 provinces, autonomous regions, and municipalities directly under the Central Government along the Long March route covered by the Red Army. Using funds that it has raised itself, the OUC offers continuing education opportunities for rural grassroots cadres and free degree education and vocational skill trainings for people filing for poverty alleviation. It has set up special scholarships and grants to help students to complete their schooling and has trained a number of new professional farmers for Long March Belt poverty-stricken counties, realising targeted poverty alleviation through education.

Train College Students Free of Charge along the Long March Belt

According to the introduction given by Liu Chen, deputy secretary of the Party Committee of the OUC, this is a training plan for educational improvement in old revolutionary base areas along the route of the Long March. It covers a number of different factors. The first is to train rural grassroots cadres for free. Township cadres and leading members of village Party branch committees and villagers’ committees in poverty-stricken counties are offered free registration for junior college and undergraduate continuing education programmes in order to strengthen government construction in the rural grassroots and to train leaders in changing poverty into prosperity. The second is to offer free degree continuing education in junior college and undergraduate programmes to people filing for poverty alleviation who aspire to go to university but fail to do so because of their needy families. The third is to train the skilled talents urgently needed by industries and enterprises free of charge. The OUC offers courses in cooperation with relevant industries and enterprises, and students in the poverty-stricken counties are admitted free of charge in order to enable them “to work while learning” and to make the concept of “admission to learn means finding jobs and university entrance means employment” a reality. The fourth is to offer a range of free vocational and skills training to the overwhelming majority of migrant workers, including migrant workers in cities and surplus rural workers around the local characteristic pillar industries. The fifth is to set up scholarships and grants to encourage and assist students to complete their learning smoothly. The sixth is to provide financial support for the construction of information technology infrastructure, to launch a range of high quality free learning resources, to offer financial assistance for the construction of bases for educational projects targeted at alleviating poverty, and to serve local economic and social development.
Liu Chen said that the OUC has focused on and leveraged the Long March Belt Educational Project Targeted at Alleviating Poverty to provide pertinent education improvement and vocational skills training, to assist in the construction of information technology infrastructure, and to share quality resources through a number of channels, such as project pull, partner assistance, tuition fee deduction and exemption, scholarships, and financial aid. By the end of 2018, about RMB 200 million had been invested in upgrading the operational capacities of the grassroots study centres and to enhance the cohesion of the OUC system, benefitting approximately 25,000 local students and needy people.

Adjust Measures to Local Conditions and Tailor Teaching to Students in Combination with Industries

According to the introduction given by Che Mengliang, president of Cangxi County study centre at the OUC Sichuan Branch, Cangxi, where the Fourth Front Army of the Chinese Workers’ and Peasants’ Red Army started their Long March, is the first county of China’s red kiwifruit and is famous as the home of snow pears in China. It is blessed with distinctive advantages in terms of industrial and teaching resources. The plan has been put into practice in the study centres in Cangxi and Rangtang. The OUC Sichuan Branch has brought the advantageous features of radio and TV universities in terms of open education, system operation, and resource sharing into full play in order to deepen teaching reform, implement the “internet + face-to-face tutorship + practice” blended teaching model, conduct online and offline teaching activities, and offer teaching support services. Clear achievements have been made in the one year of training practice. By the end of October 2018, the OUC had appropriated a total of nearly RMB 2 million of special funds for Cangxi and Rangtang, and a total of 470 people had been admitted to degree upgrading projects for grassroots cadres and impoverished households filing for poverty alleviation.

In order to implement the training plan, develop distinctive courses, and train an array of rural talents with practical skills, the Cangxi study centre has integrated this plan with the “Training Project fir Rural Grassroots Cadres (One Thousand People Plan)” of the Organisation Department of its CPC County Committee driven by the assistance project of the OUC headquarters. The grassroots cadres from the local township have been encouraged to engage in open education funded by both the OUC headquarters and the Organisation Department of the CPC Cangxi County Committee. As a result, a solid foundation has been laid for local rural revitalisation and talent reserves.

At the same time, they have offered a range of pertinent courses with local characteristics according to local conditions, and a group of locally-based technical professionals have been trained. This has effectively satisfied the need for rural revitalisation and poverty alleviation. They have explored the development of local courses that bring together applicable local teaching materials; created the teaching mode of lectures given together by agricultural experts and large local growers in field-based classes; developed an e-commerce class and created new sales channels for farms and sideline products; and offered free community education training to special cadres and the vocational skill training needed for industrial development to throw off poverty. All of the above have won the recognition of the students.

At the Cangxi Teaching Practice Centre for E-commerce, the reporter saw that the classroom, which can accommodate over 100 people, was packed with students taking notes on the new knowledge and skills taught by the teacher. Teachers not only give the students training in basic e-commerce operation but also have them master e-commerce sales skills. A synergising platform has also been put in place in order to explore the five development models of “e-commerce + sales of goods”, “e-commerce + talent cultivation”, “e-commerce + small scale farming”, “e-commerce + agricultural enterprises”, and “e-commerce + cooperatives”. Through the students’ practice, good solutions have been found to difficult problems.

In the meantime, the study centres also have also set up “study rooms” for the coordinated learning of township learner groups by relying on the farmers’ evening schools and several’ teaching practice bases have been built based on industrial parks and planting and breeding bases.

Help Farmers to Achieve Prosperity through Industrial Parks and Household Courtyards

He Ning, head of the Organisation Department of the CPC Cangxi County Committee, was giving a lecture at the farmers’ evening school. He said that a host of students with the capacity to acquire wealth and the power to set an example have emerged from the project. These students are from rural areas and are fantastic role models. They should give lectures in RTVU classrooms so as to use their influence and example to lead more people to become rich.

Xiang Haizong, a student from the 2017 autumn term animal husbandry junior college class, serves as secretary of the coordinated general Party branch of Hongfeng Village and Zhonghua Village in Shima Township. In order to create jobs for 116 people from 32 poverty-stricken households in the village, Xiang Haizong not only chose to study animal husbandry courses but also management courses and kiwi fruit planting technique ar the study centre. After he returned to the village, he transferred 263 mu (about 17.5 hectares) of land and started a kiwi fruit industrial park. He adopted scientific management with the “five unified” management model of “unification in planning, digging, layout, technology, and planting.” He opened classes to teach what he has learned, develop the circulation economy, and lead the villagers to become prosperous together.

While leading the villagers in the development of industrial parks, he also encourages them to plant kiwi fruit trees in their own courtyards to develop a courtyard economy. The villagers thus have the advantage of both key industries and their own tiny industries to obtain sustainable generation and increase of their income. Driven by Xiang Haizong, more than 102 households have built courtyards averaging over 1 mu (about 0.07 hectares) through the development model of “big industrial parks bringing along small courtyards.” The year since the establishment of the industrial park has seen the average value of each household increase by RMB 8,200, meeting the development target of “courtyards for all households and industries for all families.”

In the meantime, Xiang Haizong has also employed two returning entrepreneurs to establish a base for traditional Chinese medicinal herbs and a machine-made charcoal plant, creating jobs for 74 people from 17 poverty-stricken households and increasing the available collective income by RMB 100,000.

In his introductuon, Luo Rongli, a superintendent of Cangxi County Educational Commission, said that extraordinary achievements have been made in Cangxi since the implementation of the Long March Belt Educational Project Targeted at Alleviating Poverty. In the 2017 autumn term alone, more than 227 junior college and undergraduate students have been enrolled in the project, including 198 junior college students and 29 undergraduate students. Total enrolment for 2018 is 175 students, including 143 junior college and 32 undergraduate students. Twenty-nine students from impoverished households have also been enrolled completely free of charge. A number of new type of professional farmers who are able to remain and achieve prosperity through technology have been cultivated to promote local economic and social development.

According to Liu Chen, only when we keep to the original mission of education, can we succeed at rural revitalisation. The original mission of educators is to serve “the Long March Belt Educational Project Targeted at Alleviating Poverty and to operate education in rural areas. It is also an inexhaustible motive for the OUC system going forward. The OUC will make further efforts to put in place all measures of the Long March Belt Educational Project Targeted at Alleviating Poverty including launching information technology and e-commerce training projects for teachers, offering financial assistance for the construction of computer rooms, cloud classrooms, OUC Taofen book house, and the e-learning resource centre demonstration project, and will give full play to the important role of education in poverty reduction and development.

By He Jing and Zheng Haiyan , Farmers’ Daily