Kyodo News: Schools for migrant children in Beijing face demolition

China Labour Bulletin appears in the following article. Copyright remains with the original publisher.

Kyodo News
Tammy Chia
29 January 2010

BEIJING -- When school reopens after the Spring Break in February, thousands of children of rural migrant workers in a Beijing district face having no classes to return to as their schools will have been demolished to make way for urban redevelopment.

At least 6,000 students, among them young children of kindergarten age, would be affected after some 20 privately run migrant schools in Chaoyang District are torn down by the end of February, according to principals of the schools slated for demolition.

With no plans given for relocation of the schools, some principals are now scrambling to find alternative premises for their students.

About 20 principals from schools and kindergartens affected by the demolition went to the Beijing municipal government office on Jan. 28 to seek help, a school principal whose last name is Li told Kyodo News.

''The notice period given to us is very tight,'' said Li. ''So we went to the city government to seek a solution for the children's education problems.''

Li said he has borrowed from friends and relatives ''several hundred thousand'' Chinese yuan to rent new premises for the school and hoped to also get some compensation for the tearing down of the school.

Luo Chou, the principal of another affected school, the Cui Ge Village Experimental School, said more than 600 children from his school and some 30 staff members will be affected by the demolition.

His school takes in migrant children from elementary to middle high-school grades.

''We have no idea what to do,'' said Luo.

An official at a local government office in Chaoyang District that oversees demolitions in the area confirmed that the schools stand on land that is slated for government redevelopment under the city's ''rural-urban integration reform'' scheme.

Because the schools are ''illegally run,'' the government will not be extending any assistance for relocating students, the anonymous official said.

''All of these affected schools are not approved and are not equipped for educating children,'' he said.

''We encourage the parents to send their children back to their hometowns, because there, education is free and the quality of education is high,'' he said.

Demolition of such ''illegal'' migrant schools is not new. In the run-up to the 2008 Beijing Olympics, hundreds of such schools were cleared as part of the city's cleanup, with some schools in Shanghai also affected.

China's swathes of migrant workers often face a heartbreaking dilemma when leaving their rural homes for the cities -- either leave their children at home or bring them to the city where they face institutionalized discrimination because of their rural residential status.

Even though the children who accompany their parents into the cities are officially allowed to enroll in state-run schools, they are often denied seats or cannot afford the school fees at approved schools.

These children largely depend on such privately run migrant schools, which are mostly poorly funded and largely unapproved by authorities.

In Beijing, there are about 300 such migrant schools with only an estimated 20 percent that have received official approval, according to the Hong Kong-based China Labor Bulletin.

Judy Shen, who runs CAI, a charity in Beijing that works with migrant children, agrees that such unofficial schools are often ill-equipped and the quality of the teachers is generally low because of poor funding and low salaries.

''The long-term plan is for the children to get into the public school,'' Shen said. ''In the meantime they (authorities) are not able to accommodate all these children in Beijing's public schools.''

According to the state-run Xinhua News Agency, there are more than 420,000 children of migrant workers who are currently studying in Beijing. In 2009, 67 percent of such children were accepted into public schools, it said.
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