Premier Li Keqiang surprised many people when he replied to a letter from students at Jinzhai Project Hope Primary School of Anhui province in East China, which was established 25 years ago and was the first school of its kind in China.
On Feb 17, 1990, Li -- who at the time was a member of the Secretariat of the Communist Youth League Central Committee -- visited Jinzhai county to choose the location for the Project Hope school.
Since then, 6,175 students from low-income families have passed through its gates.
In his letter to the students, Li told them that Project Hope has received more than 10 billion yuan ($1.64 billion) in donations in the past 25 years, and 18,396 Hope schools have been founded, with 4.95 million poor students receiving financial assistance.
“Poverty is terrible, but not having the opportunity to an equal education is even more terrible. It may be difficult to eliminate poverty in the short term, but we cannot lose any time in creating a fair environment. Together, let’s continue our efforts to create a better world so that every poor child will be able to have a good life.”
After Zhang Lu, a sixth grade student, read these words out loud to teachers and her classmates on Oct 29, the news spread like wildfire around the campus.
A teacher at the school, Liao Guilin, who along with student representatives wrote the letter to the Premier on Oct 16, burst into tears when she saw his reply. “I didn’t expect the Premier to reply.”
The letter from the students described significant changes in their school, education, and lives -- and they enclosed recent photos showing students and staff on campus.
“We wrote the letter simply to express our gratitude. We had no idea whether the Premier would actually receive it because we did not even know the post code for the State Council. Even if he did, he is so busy, so we really did not expect a reply,” Liao said.
“Project Hope sends a positive message to society: Knowledge can change destiny,” Li wrote. “Let no child leave the classroom because of poverty -- the government will make sure of that.”