BEIJING, March 12 -- Unlike most retired senior officials, Zhang Baoqing seems to attract more attention from the media now than he did when he was still a vice-minister in the Ministry of Education (MOE).
In recognition of his efforts to help poor students with their schooling, Chinese Central Television last December nominated him as one of the most touching people of the year.
His outspokenness, especially his harsh criticism of unreasonable school fees and aggressive advocacy of compulsory schooling in rural areas, has earned him extensive support among grassroots people, who compare him to the likes of Auditor-General Li Jinhua.
His retirement from the MOE in 2005 after 26 years of service did little to dampen the 63-year-old's passion for helping poor students. He went on to become chairman of China Education Development Foundation (CEDF) last March.
"I want to make sure every poor student in China completes his or her schooling," Zhang told China Daily. "I will try my best to make CEDF the best of its kind in China."
With support from the MOE and Ministry of Finance, the foundation is reaching out to mainland students from poverty-stricken families, as well as those from Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan who study at mainland schools.
"China has more than 40 million poverty-stricken students. It is not just the government's responsibility to help them, it is all of our responsibility," he said on the sidelines of the ongoing annual session of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) National Committee, of which he is a member.
"Government plays the main role, and the foundation could back it up," Zhang said, adding that his organization could respond to requests for help more swiftly since it received directly applications from students.
"Last year the CEDF raised 264 million yuan (33 million U.S. dollars), and 12,000 poor students received subsidies," he said.
However, Zhang said this was far from enough money, especially compared with the 200,000-plus applications the foundation received in just eight months last year.
"Chinese society is not yet at the point where people feel comfortable donating money to the poor, and some rich people dare not contribute out of fear of exposing their wealth," Zhang said, calling for more entrepreneurs to support his campaign.
(Source: China Daily)