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A little known fact of life in China came to light when the diary of a 14-year-old peasant girl made it from a remote town in rural China made it to the bestseller lists in France. The book, which has now been published in 16 countries around the world, tells the story of a young girl who is desperate to stay in school, despite the problem of sky-high school fees, which her parents can not afford.


7 septembre 2002 6 07 /09 /septembre /2002 00:00
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Letter 10 - September 2002

Dear All
The new school year has started, also in China, and we have sorted out the bursaries, for the children who were already receiving help last year as well as for the new ones chosen on the occasion of our trip out there last July with Michèle Fitoussi. We have already received letters thanking us from several families, among them one very touching one from a father, which we provide in translation below. In total, 28 children are now benefiting from bursaries, to whose number, of course, is added Ma Yan, whose bursary will in the future be drawn from the sum already paid by the publisher of the book shortly to come out.
The children can be divided up into the following groups : one in vocational training, 15 (among them Ma Yan) in Middle School at Yuwang, and 13 at primary school in Zhang Jia Shu. And with two exceptions, they are all girls.
This help amounts to nearly 1500 Euros, a net increase from the sum previously paid out in the form of bursaries, due to the increase in the number of Middle School, students (we pay 500 Yuan per middle school student, and 200 Yuan per primary school student per semester) and the payment of 2000 Yuan which we are providing to the student in vocational training, Wei Yong’e, a sick girl whose letters had moved us and whom we had visited together with Michèle Fitoussi. This very courageous girl from an extremely poor family was admitted to a specialised school at Urumqi, capital of the neigbouring Xinjiang province, even though her state of health remains precarious.
After paying out the bursaries, we still have a little more than 1500 Euros in the bank, enough to ensure without problems the payment for the second semester for the same students. But it appears wiser to us, at the present stage, not to take on new bursary recipients despite the pressing entreaties we continue to receive from Ningxia. We will perhaps be able to revise this policy once The Diary of Ma Yan [in French] have come out. These publications might stir up more people willing to contribute.
The book should come out on 4 October, with the publisher Ramsay. I will be in Paris at this time, and we could organise a constitutive General Assembly of the Association for the Children of Ningxia [Association « Enfants du Ningxia »] whose statutes were filed [with the state registry] this summer. I suggest Saturday 6 October around lunchtime or early afternoon. I hope that you will be able to attend in large numbers, so we can get to know each other (I already met some of you in June) , and have some discussions about our initiative, which is still conducted on a trial-and-error-principle and is going quite well. Would this date be convenient for you, and what time do you suggest ?
Among the events surrounding the publication of the book I would like to point out the publication of a report by Michèle Fitoussi in the (french edition of) Elle magazine of 29 September, a report from the village of Ma Yan by Philippe Rochot in the TV news programme of France 2 in the first week of September, and a conference which I will be holding at the Maison de la Chine, place St Sulpice, Paris, on 4 October at 6:30 pm.
Best wishes
Pierre Haski Beijing, 16 September 2002
Letter from Ma Zhiji, father of Ma Xiaomei and Ma Guorong, first year students at High School
‘I thank you for your help given so that my two children can return to school. You have taken a lot of trouble, you have traversed mountains and rivers to come to our arid region, to resolve our difficulties, to lighten our burden. “Man only has one life to live, as the grass only has one spring.” We will never forget the benevolence you have shown us. Without your help my children would be like me ; they could never leave the countryside and realise their dreams.
On 9 July, it was just the peak of the summer harvest. There was a lot of work in the fields and we missed the opportunity of meeting you. In the evening I learned that you had already left again, and the two children did not want to peak or eat anything. Seeing them in this state I, their father, so ill : I could not help the tears in my eyes. I cannot accept that my children must be like myself and do not get any schooling. I was therefore determined to find you, even if I had to go to Beijing to obtain a satisfactory response from you. That evening I left my son Ma Guorong at home because he could not walk, and accompanied Ma Xiaomei to Yuwang, where we finally found you at the Hotel of the Yellow River. When you offered to help us, my entire family cried with happiness.
Your one thousand Yuan allowing my two children to go to school next year have safely arrived. I thank you in the name of the entire family. And we hope to continue receiving you help in the future.
I wish you health and success. "


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