Floods bring green lessons

CHINA

The worst floods for decades have caused havoc for thousands of schools in the first weeks of the new academic year.

The floods have affected 44,850 schools and 8.47 million students across the country, according to the education ministry.

In Hunan Province alone, 278 teachers and students have died in the disaster. The death toll in the country exceeds 3,000.

Hubei Province has been the worst hit - one in five primary and secondary schools have been flooded.

School buildings have been submerged while books and an estimated 762 million yuan (Pounds 55.2m) of teaching equipment has been destroyed. In north-east China, rivers are still above danger levels. Although the Yangtze River in central China is now receding, thousands of classrooms in the region are expected to remain under water for another month.

Most pupils in the flood-affected areas have returned to makeshift schools. Tents, homes and other buildings are being used as classrooms, while thousands of students are to transfer to schools that were not flooded.

In Heilongjiang Province, one in 10 schools has been affected. Provincial authorities have asked schools to merge, introduced half-day schooling so twice as many students can attend classes and asked teachers to teach children in different years in one class.

Attention is now focusing on rebuilding the ruined schools. Central government has allocated Pounds 21.6m for education in the flood-hit areas.

The disaster has focused attention on the environmental degradation of China. Deforestation has been blamed for the erosion of soil from hills and mountains and the silting of rivers. Professor Chen Changdu, director of Beijing University's ecology centre, said: "We will need to change our education in light of the floods. We have to teach young people to care about the environment: how to replant and conserve their slopes and soil."

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