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11:59 Sep 30 2011

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"It's good to be back to school": students in disaster-hit regions
10:11, September 02, 2010  

After living through major tragedies, such as the Wenchuan Earthquake that claimed over 68,000 lives and the Zhouqu mudslides that left 1,400 dead, the new semester starting Wednesday may bring a much-needed sense of normality to the affected students.

Senior high schoolers of the mudslides-hit Zhouqu County, northwest China's Gansu Province, began a new semester on a usual date, Sept. 1, which is the first day of school in many parts of China, but at a place 400 km south of Zhouqu, the provincial capital of Lanzhou.

After the county was hit by massive mudslides on Aug. 8, two primary schools were damaged and high schools are now being used by these pupils. So high schoolers, altogether more than 3,000, were transferred to four schools in Lanzhou and Dingxi City.

"The new dormitory has everything -- bed sheets, tooth brushes, slippers, toilet paper, you name it", said Wang Wentian, whose house was destroyed. Fortunately, her family was not at home when the mudslides struck.

Another student, Guo Xiangban, lost several loved ones in the mudslides. "I still feel sad when I am alone. But the past is the past and I have to move on with my life," said Guo.

On the same day, students of the newly-built Beichuan High School, where over 1,000 students were killed after two school buildings collapsed during the Wenchuan earthquake on May 12, 2008, also started their new semester.

"I have never been in a school so beautiful. There is even a bathroom in our dorm," said Qiao Qi, a senior high student at Beichuan.

The new school, covering an area of 15 hectares, can accommodate 5,200 students. Before the school was built, students, like nomads, had studied during the past two years in tents, then makeshift classrooms.

Sitting in a wheelchair, Guo Dongmei looked at the bustling sports field where her schoolmates could not wait to try out the new sports equipment, such as the parallel bars.

Guo was badly hurt in the earthquake. Her left leg was amputated and the muscles in her right leg now suffer from not being used. Also, she could not remember how many surgeries she had been through.

"Maybe a dozen," said short-haired Guo softly. "Our new school facilities, like the beds and toilets, were specially designed to make life easier for people like me. Now I can take care of myself, on my own, at school."

What is more exciting for Guo is that after her last operation on her leg last month, doctors told her that she can stop using a wheelchair and, in one month, begin walking with the help of crutches.

All school buildings of the new schools were built no higher than five stories so students can be easily evacuated in case of an emergency.

A total of 1,467 people were killed and 298 others remain missing as of Monday due to the Zhouqu mudslide. The death toll from the Wenchuan earthquake was 68,712, among which 5,335 were students.

Source: Xinhua


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