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Cablegate: Minority Girls in Guangxi Face Roadblocks to Higher

VZCZCXRO5108
RR RUEHCN RUEHGH RUEHVC
DE RUEHGZ #1189/01 3050835
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 010835Z NOV 07
FM AMCONSUL GUANGZHOU
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 6617
INFO RUEHOO/CHINA POSTS COLLECTIVE
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RUEKJCS/DIA WASHDC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 GUANGZHOU 001189

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STATE FOR EAP/CM

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: SOCI PGOV PHUM
SUBJECT: Minority Girls in Guangxi Face Roadblocks to Higher
Education

1. SUMMARY: There are fewer assistance programs and educational
opportunities for ethnic minority girls in southwest China's Guangxi
Zhuang Autonomous Region than for other children in China. Many
fail to complete compulsory education, and options narrow further at
high school due to their being sent off to work as migrant laborers
in cities or their being married off. End Summary.

2. Ethnic minority girls in southwest China have historically
enjoyed fewer educational opportunities than other children in
China. As recently as 2006, a government survey in Guangxi found
that only 70 percent of the autonomous region's children completed
nine years of compulsory education, as compared to the national
average of 98 percent. In conversations with Congenoff, educators
and government leaders in Guangxi indicated that ethnic minority
girls comprised the majority of those who did not finish the nine
years of required schooling.

Compulsory Education: Better, But Still Incomplete
--------------------------------------------- -----

3. A 2006 survey conducted by the Canadian Civic Society Project
(CCSP) showed that some minority girls were pulled out of school by
their parents during the compulsory education period. In three
counties, the research team surveyed five schools with educational
aid projects for minority girls, and found that ten percent of
minority girls surveyed had suspended their education at some point
during primary school, while 4.6 percent took a break during middle
school.

4. The main obstacles to minority girls completing their education
are poverty and a cultural preference for boys. In the Canadian
survey, almost 60 percent of girls surveyed said that boys in their
families received more educational opportunities than girls, and 33
percent said their parents did not want to invest in girls, even if
they were good students. If forced to choose between giving a son
or a daughter an education, parents will often choose to invest in a
son.

5. However, there is evidence the situation is improving. Educators
at minority schools said that recent emphasis on the compulsory
education law by the regional government had led to more students,
including minority girls, attending school on a regular basis.
Moreover, though government officials admitted that there were
currently no educational programs that specifically targeted
minority girls, those girls were eligible to take advantage of
financial aid policies designed to help poor students in general.
Additionally, assistance is sometimes available from groups such as
The Blossom Project, which was founded in cooperation with the All
China Women's Federation, the Guangxi Children's Fund and foreign
donors. The Project, which endeavors to help girls complete their
compulsory education, has already raised $3.7 million and helped
150,000 girls complete compulsory education since its establishment
in 1998.

High School: A Victim of the "Great Bottleneck"
--------------------------------------------- --

6. After finishing primary school, educational opportunities for
minority girls narrow significantly. Due to financial pressure,
most work as migrant laborers in cities, or stay in the village and
get married. In response to the question, "What would you do if you
were not able to continue to high school?" 60 percent of the CCSP
respondents said they would get married. Although the legal
marriage age in China is 20 for women, it is common for minority
girls in Guangxi to marry at 15, but to legally register their
marriage only after turning 20.

7. An educator at a minority high school in Liuzhou told us that
high school is not a government priority, arguing that more
resources are devoted to compulsory education, vocational training
and universities. As a result, large numbers of middle school
graduates face a "great bottleneck" of high schools with limited
capacity. And for those who are able to go on to high school, there
is little government financial aid.

8. Due to the lack of government attention and funding of high
schools, several Guangxi educators told us they have had to come up
with creative solutions to help their students. Some high schools
in Guangxi organize work trips over the summer and Spring Festival
holidays to industrial hubs like Dongguan, where the students can
work in factories for a short time to earn money for school. Also,
in the late 90s, in an attempt to provide rural and minority girls
with a high school education equal to that of their peers,
experiments with all-girl high schools were conducted. In 2000,
there were about 45 public and private all-girl high schools around
China. However, they have since fallen out of favor among Chinese
educators. Today, there are only seven, one of which is in Guangxi.


GUANGZHOU 00001189 002 OF 002

University: Targeting Minorities, Not Girls
-------------------------------------------

9. When minority girls in Guangxi attend college, most of them go to
the Guangxi Nationalities University, where 60 percent of the
students are ethnic minorities. The administrators at the
university said there were no special policies in place to recruit
female students. The administration does try to ensure that the
university has at least one student from each of Guangxi's 12
minorities, but otherwise there is no quota system. Instead, there
are policies to help minority students whose college entrance scores
were not high enough to gain them admission to the school. About
600 students come to Guangxi Nationalities University to take an
extra year of preparatory classes they subsequently transfer to the
four-year program.

GOLDBERG

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