Education in NingxiaNingxia, known as Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, is located in the northwest of China. This region of about 6.7 million people is surrounded by Inner Mongolia, Shaanxi and Gansu. People of the Hui ethnicity make up more than one-third of the population in Ningxia. The steady and continuous progress of education in Ningxia has taken place since it was founded in 1958.

Until now, the nine-year system of compulsory education in Ningxia has established an enrollment rate of more than 98 percent. There are nine universities and ten professional colleges. Standards of higher education and vocational education for adults are high.

Last year, education in Ningxia reached a number of milestones. A total of 69 kindergartens were newly set up or restructured, the heating facilities of 1,086 schools were renovated and rural schools ended the use of stove heating. Nine vocational training centers were built. A total of 313,000 people received financial aid from the Student Financial Assistance Project and 280,000 students were benefited by the Nutrition Improvement Program.

Compared to the last century, great changes have taken place for education in Ningxia. However, regarding the overall quality of education in this region, there remain significant disparities compared to the well-developed southeastern provinces of China.

Firstly, there is an observable gap between education in urban and rural areas. By the end of 2016, there were still 43.7 percent of people living in rural areas of Ningxia. About 380,000 rural people live below the poverty line. Take the Chencha Primary School as an example. It is the most remote school in the countryside, about 250 miles away from Yinchuan. Due to the inconvenience of lacking transportation services, each of the 48 students across five grades has no option but to walk a long distance to school.

The second problem is the ethnic disparities in education. In October 2014, an investigation on ethnic disparities concluded that the Hui children have a shorter period of education than the ethnic majority and that this had been occurring for generations. Sample statistics showed that while urban males in Hui and Han ethnicities had an average of 11 years’ education, in rural Ningxia, male Hui had 1.4 fewer years of education on average than rural male Han. However, many senior women of rural Hui only had a couple of years’ education and their illiteracy rates in poor, remote areas were high.

Gender inequality in education accompanies this ethnicity problem. It was reported that in rural Ningxia, Hui females had two fewer years of education on average than those of Hui males. Meanwhile, in some Hui families with multiple children, it is likely for parents to put the education of younger boys above that of girls and older boys. Due to the relatively low attendance rate of Hui girls, education in that region was lower, which restricts the overall development of education.

A recent investigation on the lifestyle transformation of Hui Muslim women in Ningxia found that higher education is correlated with avoiding early marriage. Meanwhile, some rural Hui families regard education as unnecessary for women. While the enrollment of primary schools had reached 99 percent in Ningxia, quite a few rural girls terminated their education in grade three or four.

In the Chinese government’s thirteenth five-year plan, the local government in Ningxia will be part of a plan to improve the overall education level of China by 2020. A total of 15,000 new kindergartens are expected to be constructed in poor villages across this region.

These policies will address poverty-related issues and provide aid to minority students and poor families attain education in Ningxia. Global giving with online donations is another measure to support scholarships for girls in rural families of Ningxia.

Better education in Ningxia demands reliable support from all individuals and broader society now and in the future.

– Xin Gao