Quake-hit kids studying in tents

Mianyang, May 22:

China’s national anthem struck up and 200 young students bellowed along inside a huge tent at a camp for homeless earthquake survivors.

“Classmates, this is our school,” the teacher said after the music abruptly cut off. “Each one of us must study hard and turn difficulty into strength.” A chorus of “Hao!” — or “Yes!” — followed from the students.

Children went back to school yesterday in improvised classrooms across China’s disaster zone, providing a touch of normal life amid grief and dislocation from last week’s quake.

With the overall death toll exceeding 51,000 and some five million homeless seeking shelter, the resumption of classes also allowed authorities to portray the return of some semblance of order.

Children were among the most prominent victims of the quake. Schools were especially hard hit.

School supplies are scant. At a sprawling camp in Mianyang, students had no desks or books.

Wei Wuyi, a fourth grader in Mianyang, said she dropped everything when she fled her school

in Qushan during the quake. “I like art and math class, so I hope we can have those again soon,” said Wei.

Temporary classrooms are among the first structures being built in a landscape blighted by vast piles of rubble.

“I don’t know how long we’ll be here, but I hope we are here the shortest time possible,” said Gao Luwei, a nine-year-old from Dujiangyan.