Closure of migrant children schools in China sparks anguish

Thu Aug 18, 2011 3:37am EDT
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By Sabrina Mao and Maxim Duncan

BEIJING (Reuters) - China has shut down 24 schools for the children of migrant workers in Beijing forcing more than 14,000 students to drop out, state media said, sparking anger among parents who say they face discrimination.

Local officials told the migrant schools that they had not met safety and hygiene standards.

"I felt very sad when I heard the school will be shut down, I have to send my children back to our hometown in Henan," 42-year-old waste collector He Zhongshan told Reuters at the Dongba Experimental School, on the northeastern outskirts of the capital.

"The living standard in Beijing is much better than in my hometown and education here is good. But for public schools, my children will need many certificates to be enrolled."

While the overwhelming majority of China's 150 million rural migrant workers see their future in cities and towns, they are often treated as unwelcome "interlopers" and have few rights.

China's residence permit (hukou) system, which channels most welfare, housing support and healthcare to urban residents, means that migrant workers do not have access to state-subsidized schools.

"The authorities claim they will find places for all displaced children but they deliberately set the threshold for school placement qualification so high that the vast majority of migrant families cannot meet the requirements," Geoffrey Crothall, director of communications for workers' rights group China Labour Bulletin, said in emailed comments.

Crothall added that "the closure of migrant schools in Beijing is a cynical ploy by district governments to clear the land for property developers as land values in the outer suburbs continue to rise."   Continued...

<p>A girl uses her fingers to count mathematical problems at a kindergarten for children of migrant workers, on the outskirts of Beijing May 13, 2011. REUTERS/Jason Lee/Files</p>