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Traveling for tuition

Ehmed carries the Chinese flag during a flag-raising ceremony in the morning. Photo: CFP

"Aksu is a beautiful place, the sky is more blue than in other places, the fruits are sweeter, and there are all sorts of delicious dishes," Ehmed Dawud said.

He comes from a cotton-farming family in Aksu, the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. Both his parents work in the fields.

But Ehmed left his community when he graduated from high school in 2012. His family didn't want him to become a farmer and now he studies at Shenzhen No.2 Vocational School of Technology in Guangdong Province.

He's participating in the neizhi program, a special initiative set up by the central government which helps students study in vocational schools outside Xinjiang.

Currently there are two government-run special programs to train young people of ethnic groups who wish to get an education in big cities. The neigao program was established to help students receive high school education, then the neizhi was set up in 2011.

The students need to take a test in order to take part in the program. Besides academic grades, their ability to speak Putonghua is also taken into consideration.

Ehmed's family sent him to a bilingual kindergarten. He started studying Putonghua at that time, so he is able to speak the language fluently.

After getting into the vocational school, Ehmed found his classmates are from 13 different ethnic groups in Xinjiang, and Putonghua became their common language. He majors in logistics and says the industry is much more mature in Shenzhen than in Xinjiang.

"When my family mails me food, it takes over a week to get here and when I open the package, the fruits are not fresh anymore," he said.

When they graduate, the students can choose to go on studying at advanced vocational schools, or look for work. They are encouraged by the government to find jobs back in Xinjiang, to bring back their knowledge and develop the region.

Ehmed said he wants to help his home. When he graduates next year, he wants to introduce new ways of thinking and new technology to Xinjiang.

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