Entry Title: "When Free Education isn’t Free"
Name: Frances Tong , Hong Kong
Category and Expertise: Deeper Perspective|Photo Essay and Feature Story|Children, Non-Professional


Entry Description: Enveloped among folding mountains and turbulent rivers, Guizhou province is the poorest province in China. Despite all children are offered free primary education, studying is a luxury to some of the mountain kids. Given the remoteness, the lack of proper roads and inadequate infrastructure, going to school can be an expedition for the persistent. Kids trek for hours, climb over steep slopes and cross deep gorges before they reach their school huts. Boarding school huts made of chopped woods serve multiple functions sheltering the classrooms and dormitories. While bunk beds become both studying desks and sleeping mats, wooden stools become writing tops. Away from parental attention and support, one’s learning falls on the individual’s shoulder. For the fortunate ones where schools are assessable, mothering the younger ones inevitably goes hand-in-hand with studying. When free education isn’t really free, going to school becomes an admirable aspiration.

Story: Enveloped among folding mountains and turbulent rivers, Guizhou province is the poorest province in China. Despite all children are offered free primary education, studying is a luxury to some of the mountain kids. Given the remoteness, the lack of proper roads and inadequate infrastructure, going to school can be an expedition for the persistent. Kids trek for hours, climb over steep slopes and cross deep gorges before they reach their school huts. Boarding school huts made of chopped woods serve multiple functions sheltering the classrooms and dormitories. While bunk beds become both studying desks and sleeping mats, wooden stools become writing tops. Away from parental attention and support, one’s learning falls on the individual’s shoulder. For the fortunate ones where schools are assessable, mothering the younger ones inevitably goes hand-in-hand with studying. When free education isn’t really free, going to school becomes an admirable aspiration.

About the Artist:

Frances Tong focuses on finding meaning in landscape and people. Her passion for nature and people brings her to some of the most remote places in China, Japan and Europe. Her works were exhibited in San Francisco, Hong Kong and Shanghai. She is devoted to using her camera to raise awareness on mindful living as a way to address humanitarian and environmental issues. Frances won the honorable mention in the Nikon 18th Annual Photo Contest in California, 1998.