Unique classrooms support Chinese migrant children

Tue May 31, 2011 10:51am EDT
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By Tyra Dempster

BEIJING (Reuters Life!) - The school day has ended but class is not yet over for students heading for their local community center and a very different sort of classroom -- one built from shipping containers.

The children, who are from China's "floating population" of migrant workers, don't hold Beijing residency, which means they do not have the right to access free education at public schools.

Migrant families who have settled in Beijing are now so permanent that city officials tolerate, but do not certify, about 260 private schools dotted around the capital specifically to serve migrant children. These schools are also often located on marginal land earmarked for other projects, and can be subject to sudden demolition.

This was why Compassion for Migrant Children's Education has decided on the unusual solution of shipping containers for their latest community center, located in a grimy northeastern Beijing suburb called Heiqiao, where it runs after-school programs for children of migrant workers.

"In the event that we need to move because of urban development, we can just pick up these containers and move with the families," said Yin Chia, the NGO's Australian-Chinese manager.

"These classrooms, they are built out of shipping containers, they are completely renovated."

The charity has already lost one community center to Beijing's bulldozers as the migrant workers living around it were moved to make way for a shopping center.

All the programs and classes at the shipping container school are free, making the center popular. The after school program is limited to 200 students, though anyone can use the basketball court and sports equipment.   Continued...

<p>Children of migrant workers pose for a picture outside containers used as classrooms during an after-school program initiated by Compassion for Migrant Children (CMC) in Beijing May 25, 2011. REUTERS/Petar Kujundzic</p>