Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Migrants’ children shut out of schools

Two days into the new school semester, hundreds of children of migrant workers in Beijing are still searching desperately for new schools after their previous ones were marked for demolition.

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Guanyu 道 said...

Migrants’ children shut out of schools

Pupils left in lurch by demolition order

Raymond Li
03 March 2010

Two days into the new school semester, hundreds of children of migrant workers in Beijing are still searching desperately for new schools after their previous ones were marked for demolition.

Taoyuan School - one of dozens of schools catering to migrant children that were ordered to shut - had security guards sent by local authorities standing guard at its entrance to prevent parents and pupils entering, its principal said.

Wang Hai said two dozen police officers and security guards went to the school on Sunday and warned him not to open it.

Nevertheless, about 400 migrant children and their parents visited the school several times over the past two days, hoping it would be allowed to open for classes.

Wang said more than 900 pupils from migrant families were studying at the privately run school in the city’s Chaoyang district. While 500 had either been sent back to their hometowns or found new schools in Beijing, the rest were still looking for schools, he said.

“Most of the kids have no other choice but to hope our school can open as their parents have been turned away at other schools, including some public schools,” he said.

Privately run schools, normally set up in rented premises in villages-turned-slums, provide children from migrant families with affordable schooling, something they cannot get at public schools because they are not registered as Beijing residents.

Dozens of schools for children from migrant families are facing demolition in the capital in a government urban development push estimated to have affected between 5,000 and 10,000 pupils from migrant families.

According to anecdotal accounts, there are about 300 such schools in Beijing, but education authorities have licensed only about 70. The rest have been allowed to operate for years but are still deemed illegal.

The authorities have refused to compensate owners of such schools because they were not licensed, and did not announce any plans to provide schooling for pupils forced to leave schools facing demolition.

However, in an about-face amid intense media scrutiny over the past two weeks, Chaoyang education authorities have promised to keep all the children at school.

The deputy director of Chaoyang’s education commission, Liu Libin, told People’s Daily on Monday it would set up make-shift schools if there were not enough vacancies at other migrant schools and public schools. “Our bottom line is to make sure none of the school-age kids is out of school,” Liu said.

The principal of Cuigezhuang’s Wende School, Cui Kezhong, said district and township officials approached him yesterday with promises to help the pupils out, and by the afternoon more than 80 pupils had been offered places at other schools. Only a day earlier, security guards apparently employed by township authorities had visited the school, trying to disperse children and parents.

“I was indeed very angry yesterday, but today the situation is totally different,” Cui said, adding that the authorities also appeared more willing to negotiate compensation.