A nationwide education crisis is looming as flood damage threatens next week's start to the school year. Several provinces are reporting a shortage of teachers, and classroom materials are in short supply. Official reports say the season's floods have affected 44,850 schools and 8.47 million students. Thousands of classrooms have been destroyed, with thousands more severely damaged. The floods have caused 7.6 billion yuan (HK$7.1 billion) worth of damage to schools and colleges, 85 per cent of that in primary and secondary schools. The Ministry of Education has spent more than 10 million yuan on emergency schooling for flood victims and has promised extra money for schools in the worst-affected areas. The ministry said temporary schools could be set up in tents, homes and public buildings. Schools not affected by the floods had been ordered to admit students from water-damaged schools free of charge or give them a discount on fees. In Hubei province, one-fifth of all primary and secondary schools are believed to be flooded, affecting almost 820,000 students. A provincial education official said there was a dire shortage of premises, teachers and books. Local authorities were setting up temporary schools in tents and warehouses. Students forced to move away could obtain 'temporary study cards' allowing them entry to other schools. In Heilongjiang province, where flooding of the Nen and Songhua rivers caused widespread havoc, about one in every 10 schools is damaged, affecting 449,000 pupils who would normally have returned to school on Tuesday. In addition to the measures recommended by the ministry, provincial authorities are taking steps of their own to limit the effect on students. They will teach students from two schools together, teach pupils of different grades in single classrooms, and split the school day in half so twice as many students can be taught in a classroom. 'A shortage of teachers is also a big problem,' a provincial education official said. 'About 5,390 teachers in the province have themselves been severely affected by the floods.' School books worth three million yuan had been destroyed, and printers were working extra shifts, aiming to print enough extra copies to make up for the shortage within a week.