Bao Xiahong, an RTVU student from Xiama village, Yunfeng township, Suichang County, recently won first prize for the fragrant tea he planted in the fourth session of the “Guoyin Cup” national tea contest. Commenting on the honour, Bao said: “It is extremely difficult to stand out in such an authoritative tea contest. Thanks to Suichang RTVU’s ‘Rural College Student Training Programme,’ I have learned lots of practical knowledge.”

The “Rural College Student Training Programme” is a project in Zhejiang province operated under the principle of “funded by the government, undertaken by the university, and benefitting the farmers.” As a pilot county, Suichang has implemented this project with the help of the Suichang branch of Zhejiang RTVU since 2006. Over the past ten years, the programme has cultivated more than 400 rural college students. Students from this programme only pay for 10% of their tuition, the remainder of which is subsidised by the three-level governments i.e. county, town, and village.

Suichang is located in a mountainous area in southwestern Zhejiang province, covering 20 townships and 203 administrative villages, with tea and bamboo production as its two major businesses. In response to the practical conditions in Suichang, the Suichang branch launched two majors in Forestry Technology and Agriculture Economy Management, both lasting two and a half years. The university gives intensive classes on weekends or during the low season. Students obtain junior college diplomas if they complete the required credits before the specified time. Bao Xiahong majors in Forestry Technology and he feels it is very helpful to study courses like Soil and Fertilisers, Plant Pest Control, Soil and Water Conservation Technology. “I used to think that a high school education background was enough, but it wasn't until I went to college that I realised how limited my knowledge was,” he said.

In addition to the compulsory and optional course teaching work required by the higher level unit, the Suichang branch also provides supplementary teaching programmes, such as Farm Entertainment and Rural Leisure Tourism in order to develop more practical personnel who are willing to work and stay in local rural areas and contribute to economic and social development there. Most of the rural college students succeeded in their posts after graduation and some of them have become wealthy or become outstanding village cadres. Suichang currently has 286 registered family farms and 724 special agricultural products cooperatives that have reached a certain scale. Many people from these family farms or cooperatives are graduates of the “Rural College Student Training Programme”.

By Ye Jinxiong, Suichang Branch, Zhejiang RTVU