2008-04-02 06:43:17 Xinhua English
LHASA, April 2 (Xinhua) -- Living in a village of Xietongmen County in Tibet, Dolag looks forward to every weekend when his daughter comes home from the boarding school in town.
His nine-year-old daughter enjoys free education, room and meals at the primary school, a policy the central government has offered to resident students from the region's agricultural and pasturing areas in the stage of compulsory education.
The policy was initiated in 1985, earlier than many parts of the country. The sponsoring fund per head has risen to the present1,450 yuan from 353 yuan 23 years before.
"The government not only provides free education for my daughter, it also helps us to build new houses," said the plump middle-aged man.
Dolag, whose life revolves around a pasture in northern Tibet, enjoys watching his daughter coming back home from school in a merry mood. For him, it is a return to a happy life.
The 41-year-old man was heartbroken when his two other children were killed by floods while herding sheep in 2004. But he still has a daughter.
Unlike most parts of the country, Tibetans in rural and pasturing areas enjoy special policies that put no limit on the number of births the couples can have.
Dolag has gradually stepped out of the shadow. Last year, he spent more than 100,000 yuan (about 14,000 US dollars) to renovate his house, backed by nearly 20,000 yuan of subsidy from the local government.
Tibet started an unprecedented house renovation program for the farmers and herdsmen in 2006, which has helped 570,000 Tibetans move into new houses.
The government has allocated more than 1.7 billion yuan as subsidies in the program.
Zhoinlag, Dolag's 66-year-old mother, now lives with her other relatives in Shigatse, where the famous Tashilhunpo Monastery (meaning "heap of glory") is located.
Her daily life is occupied with turning the prayer wheels, a special ritual of reading the mantras for Tibetans, and paying visits to the temple.
"I wish I could take my mother to other temples and monasteries in Tibet," said Dolag, who plans to buy a car for the purpose. His mother's ultimate wish is nothing material - she only hopes that all her children are healthy.
Next year, Zhoinlag will be 67, the average lifespan of today's Tibetan farmers and herdsmen. The lifespan was only 35.5 years half a century ago.
Dolag is confident that his mother will live a long life because of the better living conditions and medical care.
Nearly 98 percent of the 2.8 million people in Tibet were covered by basic medical insurance, the local health authority said in October last year. Starting from 2007, the poverty-stricken people can receive a maximum of 30,000 yuan in medical aid.
Dolag has two brothers, who are both civil servants. One of them graduated from a teachers' school while the other from a university.
According to statistics of the regional Bureau of Statistics, the per capita annual income of Tibet farmers and herdsmen has kept a two-digit growth for five consecutive years, reaching 2,788yuan in 2007.
To help farmers and herdsmen in difficulty, the regional government established a system in 2007 to ensure these people enjoy a minimum standard of living, benefiting farmers and herdsman with annual income below 800 yuan.