Migrants from a barren area in the south of Ningxia Hui autonomous region are benefiting from new opportunities after being resettled.
They relocated to central Ningxia from Xihaigu, which comprises Xiji county, Haiyuan county and Guyuan city, and was once dubbed the "most unfit place for human settlement" by the UN.
Their new home, Hongsibu district, Wuzhong city, was lifted out of poverty in 2020, a quarter of a century after the launch of a large ecological migration project in the late 1990s.
Residents in the district are now looking to quality education to provide the next generation with a promising future.
Ha Xiaojun, head of the Hongsibu education bureau, said more than half the district's senior high school students passed the college entrance exam last year, ranking second among the nine mountainous county-level administrative regions in southern Ningxia.
For the first time, a student from Hongsibu was admitted to Tsinghua University in Beijing.
Ha said families in neighboring counties are now sending their children to Hongsibu to be educated.
Junior high school student Wei Lai'en is excited about attending an optional weekly course to study robotics.
Last year, Wei won first prize in a robotics competition in Wuzhong for a model vehicle capable of identifying color and light intensity, and automatically making turns. He programmed the model with software designed especially for young children and teenagers.
Wei attends No 1 Middle School in Hongsibu, which hosts courses on robotics, drones, virtual reality and artificial intelligence. The district authorities have integrated internet technologies to improve education and provide students with access to cutting-edge scientific advances.
The school also provides calligraphy, painting, singing, dancing and piano lessons, in addition to traditional opera and martial arts instructions.
Students attending handiwork classes are taught to make floral ornaments from fabric and batik works, and some of these items have found a market on e-commerce platforms such as Taobao.
After graduating from a local primary school, all children living in the urban area or the countryside attend junior high school in downtown Hongsibu.
Ma Yan, principal of Hongsibu No 1 Middle School, said boarding schools have solved the problems faced by parents working in farming, who were unable to help their children with schoolwork. Boarding schools have also helped migrant workers in big cities who have to leave their children in their hometowns without lessons.
Centralized education provides equal opportunities for rural migrants and urban students, and to a certain extent it prevents intergenerational poverty, Ma said.
Sun Zhi, head of the finance department in Ningxia, said the region is one of the first at provincial level in western China to achieve balanced compulsory education and informationization of basic education. Informationization refers to the extent by which a geographical area, an economy, or a society is becoming information-based.
Ningxia has increased financial support in the past decade by prioritizing the development of compulsory and preschool education, especially in mountainous areas, improving teachers' incomes and living conditions, and sponsoring underprivileged students, Sun said.
Ma Huijuan, a grassroots writer and deputy to the 14th National People's Congress, who moved from Jingyuan county, Guyuan, to Hongsibu with her husband in 2000, has long sought to expand cultural resources for local residents.
She feels that migrants generally tend to become more open-minded and creative in Hongsibu after they leave their hometowns.
When they have better living conditions, it's only natural for them to pursue higher education to learn more, Ma Huijuan said.
"Members of the next generation are willing and able to endure the hardships of study with strong independence and autonomy, and their families are very generous toward education," Ma said.
She also called for more teachers to be recruited and for continuous improvements in their ability to do the job.