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Dam may bring cascade of cash to schools

CHINA. China's massive and controversial Three Gorges Dam hydroelectricity project which will lead to the flooding of 160 towns, 150,000 acres of farmland and require the resettlement of 1.3 million people along the Yangtze river, is causing a mammoth headache for education authorities.

Some 600 schools and 200,000 students are being relocated because of the project, the largest of its kind in the world. The State Education Commission is pouring 240 million yuan (Pounds 18m) into the area, most of it to Wanxian, the sleepy town of 300,000 inhabitants which is shouldering the bulk of resettlement from the areas to be flooded. By the time the dam is completed in 2006, the population of Wanxian will have more thandoubled.

Of the funds for Wanxian, Pounds 150,000 will go towards building teachers' housing to try to attract teachers to the new areas. The Wanxian authorities have realised that the dam is a massive opportunity for them to attract investment in housing and schools after decades of neglect of the education system.

Some Pounds 3.5 million has been allocated to ensure the nine-year compulsory education scheme can be carried out in nine impoverished districts. Wanxian is hoping to attract investment to develop industry in the area and needs a skilled workforce.

Education projects are considered important to gain the support of local residents for the controversial resettlement programme. Education levels are particularly low in inland areas along the Yangtze, with about a third of the peasants illiterate.

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