Financial aid helps promising scholars reach potential
2018-12-25 09:30:00

Premier Li Keqiang was a member of the secretariat of the Communist Youth League Central Committee when he visited Jinzhai county, Anhui province, in February 1990.

He had been inspecting the proposed location for Project Hope's first primary school, and on the way back he stopped at Jinzhai No 1 High School.

Jinzhai, located in the Dabie Mountains, was one of China's poorest counties at the time. It was chosen as the site for the primary school under the project, which helps keep disadvantaged children from quitting.

Although the focus was on primary school students from impoverished families, the county government decided to use some Project Hope funds to help promising older students.

In the spring of 1990, Zhang Zongyou was in his first year at the high school. His family made a living farming silkworms and growing kenaf, a plant used to make bags and rope.

"Life at that time was generally hard. Most of us were poor, so I didn't feel life was especially hard for me," he said. "It's just we were starving. Most of us ate only steamed rice with pickled vegetables."

Zhang was one of two high-performing students chosen in 1991 to receive money from Project Hope - 40 yuan (about $7 at the time) per year for high school. He went on to do well in the national college entrance exam and was admitted to Fuyang Normal University in Anhui in 1992. At that time, the project's financial aid was raised to 300 yuan.

"It was very important for me because all universities had started charging tuition, and expenses at the university were much higher than at school," he said.

In 1993, Zhang was among 100 college students chosen by Project Hope for a program under which he could receive as much as 800 yuan per year.

"It was a lot of money. I also took a part-time job at the university, which meant I never had to spend my parents' money. In fact, I sometimes gave them money to help out the family," he said.

Zhang, now 45, is a published author and associate professor of classical literature at Nanjing University's School of Liberal Arts in Jiangsu province.

His work has won several awards, including Jiangsu's Excellent Research Award in Philosophy and Social Science and Nanjing University's Original Award for Social Science Research for a book on Zhu Yizun, a prominent poet and scholar from the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911).

Project Hope is funded partially through public donations, and Zhang said helping others is a "great virtue in Chinese tradition".

"With financial support, the project accumulates the kindness of donors, and that urges students like me to work hard," he said.

"For me, the best way to repay these kind people is to work really hard."

Source:China Daily Editor:Hiram