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Rural school buses ensure safe, easy commute for mountain kids

Xinhua, October 07, 2023 Adjust font size:

Students wait in line to get on a school bus at Guanshanhu District in Guiyang, southwest China's Guizhou Province, Sept. 7, 2023. (Xinhua)

Zhou Piaopiao no longer has to cram herself into an overloaded vehicle for her journey to school in the mountainous region of southwest China's Guizhou Province.

A junior high student from Huishui County, she used to commute over 20 km in a hired vehicle, making the trip every Sunday and returning home every Friday. Things changed when a school bus service was introduced to transport her directly from her home to the campus.

"My parents only have to pay 400 yuan (about 55.7 U.S. dollars) per semester, one-third of what they paid for the private car, and traveling by bus is way safer," Zhou said.

In Guizhou, many schools in remote mountainous areas have merged in recent years due to declining student numbers and a quest for better education. Consequently, many students now undertake long journeys to reach their schools.

To ensure a more convenient and safer commute for students to school, the government of Duanshan Town, where Zhou's school is located, signed a cooperation agreement with a local transport company in February 2022.

The company allocated two 50-seater vehicles as school buses, initially operating on two routes, each spanning 18 km. Two months later, the number of routes was expanded to six.

Yan Yaxiong, an official in the town, said the school buses take students home from school every Friday and pick them up from different villages every Sunday. So far, some 520 primary and high school students have used the bus service, with the number continuing to rise.

Li Xin, deputy head of the county's transport bureau, said school bus drivers receive training every month, and the vehicles undergo maintenance every four months. Road checks are conducted regularly to ensure the safety of the school trips.

In Guanshanhu District located in the rural area of the provincial capital Guiyang, daily school bus services have been available in three towns since 2021.

Song Wenjing, a town-level official, said the local government has appointed a volunteer for each bus to ensure order is maintained on board.

The volunteers are selected from local residents and each person is granted 5,000 yuan of subsidy per semester, Song said.

Rao Zhiqi, an official with the district transport bureau, said every student only needs to pay 2 yuan per trip, with the other 60 percent of the expenses subsidized by the local government. The subsidy totals up to 10 million yuan every year. Students from financially disadvantaged families can use the school bus service free of charge.

To date, some 2,000 students in Huishui County and 4,500 students in Guanshanhu District have benefitted from the school bus services. Many other places in the province also provide similar services.

According to Rao, the rural road infrastructure has been greatly improved in recent years, ensuring smooth operations for the school buses.

By 2019, every village with more than 30 households in Guizhou has been equipped with paved roads, benefiting 12 million rural people. 

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