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Gansu is characterized both by high rates of poverty and by varying poverty conditions in flat, hilly and remote mountainous sites. Further, the barriers to schooling faced by families in Gansu are common to provinces and autonomous regions located in China's less-developed interior.

Gansu is characterized both by high rates of poverty and by varying poverty conditions in flat, hilly and remote mountainous sites. Further, the barriers to schooling faced by families in Gansu are common to provinces and autonomous regions located in China's less-developed interior.

As of the year 2000 national census, Gansu province had a population of 25.6 million people, which represented an increase of 14.5% since the 1990 census.[1] This population was distributed across the 14 regional jurisdictions in the province, which include: 5 municipalities, 7 districts and 2 minority autonomous prefectures. It is estimated that there are now 108 men to every 100 women[2]. 76% of the population live in rural areas. While there are sizable minority populations in Gansu, 91% of the population are Han. Minority nationalities that are represented in Gansu include the following: Hui, Tibetan, Dongxiang, Yugur, Boanan, Mongolian, Kazak, Tu, Salar and Manchu.[3] There are two minority autonomous prefectures, one Hui and one Tibetan, and several minority autonomous counties. In Gansu, both mosques and Tibetan Buddhist monasteries are found alongside other Chinese temples. In Gansu, 2.67% of the population have graduated from university; 9.86% have had schooling up to high school graduation, 23.92% have graduated from middle school; and 36.91% have completed primary school. The rate of illiteracy is believed to have declined from 27.93% in 1990 to 14.34 % in 2000.

Gansu has diverse geographical characteristics, from mountainous and hilly regions to plateaus and river valleys. The province has been divided into six areas according to physical characteristics:

  • Longnan mountainous region in the south of Gansu.
  • Longxi Plateau, which is the western most part of the Loess Plateau found in South West Gansu.
  • The eastern Long Dong Plateau.
  • The Hexi or Gansu Corridor that extends along the length of Gansu from southeast to northwest and is part of the historic Silk Road.
  • Qilian Mountainous area along the Western border of Gansu.
  • Beishan Mountainous area in the North.
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    The southeastern region of Gansu enjoys a subtropical, humid climate while western and northern areas are dry and range from semi-arid to arid conditions. 30% of Gansu province is now covered by desert.[5]     
    In recent years, the national government has invested large amounts of money into infrastructure development in western provinces such as Gansu. In the GSCF sample, almost all of the villages had access to electricity for villagers to use on a daily basis. Further, in the five years before the survey, village heads reported some modest improvements in access to roads and railroads. However, over 43 percent of the villages in the GSCF sample indicated that their village did not have access to telephone services and over 56 percent did not have access to postal services.

    There is some variety in the quality of the school buildings between different schools. Many schools received government money for building renovation in the late 1990s. Principals report large percentages of buildings that do not meet the safety standards. Most primary schools do not have any students who live in the school, as primary schools are located in villages and townships where the students live. Middle schools and high schools that serve village children are only located in townships and so many children need to live at school. Conditions are cramped. Sometimes as many as 20 students live in a room, often on makeshift beds made of wooden planks.

    There have been ongoing efforts to continue the professionalization of the teaching force, ensuring that teachers have the adequate qualifications and also adequate salary and benefits.
        
    Most principals report that the majority of the teachers in their school have the required qualifications. Teachers are given a small room at the school. Some teachers whose families are in a different town or village live at the school during the week and go home on the weekends to be with their families.

    For more information on Gansu, see a Statistics Bureau report on the 2000 Census results from Gansu, or a UNESCAP socio-economic and demographic portrait of Gansu.
    Report on 2000 Census Results from Gansu
    Socio-economic and demographic portrait of Gansu http://www.unescap.org/esid/psis/population/database/chinadata/gansu.htm