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Quotable quotes from Hu Jintao's speech on CPC's 90th founding anniversary
15:33, July 01, 2011
The path of socialism with Chinese characteristics is the only way for China
to achieve socialist modernization and create decent lives for its people.
Kindergartens' closure reflects migrants' plight
Updated: 2011-09-02 21:44
BEIJING - Zhang Yanbing is a skilled manual laborer, not a teacher.
He had no idea what to do to entertain or educate his five-year-old son after the boy's suburban Beijing kindergarten closed down this week.
"He stared at the computer screen at home all morning. I know that's no good for him, but I simply don't know what to teach him, " Zhang told Xinhua on his way to buy food and new toys for his son on Thursday afternoon, the day the new school semester began for millions of Chinese students.
Zhang and his wife came to Xihongmen township in southern Beijing's Daxing District from the country's northeastern Heilong province. They both make a living doing odd jobs.
The boy previously spent a happy year at the Xiyangyang Kindergarten, or "Full of Joy" Kindergarten, in Xihongmen. However, the kindergarten was closed on Thursday because its operators did not have an ownership certificate for the buildings or an operating license.
By Thursday, 2,300 children, mostly from migrant families, were forced to go back home as 31 illegal kindergartens in Xihongmen were shut down by the government, according to Yang Min, vice secretary of the township's committee of the Communist Party of China.
Safety concerns lead to closures
The shutdown of the 31 kindergartens was part of an intense crackdown on illegal and unsafe structures, which was initiated after a fire in an illegal building in neighboring Jiugong township killed 18 people in late April, Yang said.
Most of the closed kindergartens were built without permission from local land authorities and others had become dilapidated, he said, adding that they also failed to meet safety standards.
"These kindergartens pose major hidden dangers. Some of them lack emergency passageways and some small ones are extremely crowded. There would be severe consequences if a fire or stampede occurred," Yang said.
The operator of the Xiyangyang Kindergarten, Pan Hongyan, said the kindergarten has six classrooms, each covering about 60 square meters.
Pan and his wife, Wang Xiaomin, took over the Xiyangyang Kindergarten a year ago, and invested more than 400,000 yuan in the renovation work.
A Xinhua reporter saw that every classroom was equipped with an air conditioner, a water dispenser and a dozen simple beds for the children's noon-time nap.
"We also purchased surveillance cameras and fire extinguishers, and hired security guards as ordered by education authorities. But now they have simply ordered us to leave," said Wang.
Wang said that they received a shutdown order in May, but she ignored it until a harsher one, which threatened them with demolition, came in late August.
"In the past three months, we asked the children to go home from time to time, but secretly resumed classes again and again at their parents' request," she said.
The kindergarten charged 350 yuan (about $54.8) per month for each child, including two meals every day. The cost is affordable for nearly all migrant couples who earn a few thousand yuan a month in Beijing.
"The kindergarten is open six days a week without summer and winter holidays. We know that migrant workers can spare almost no time to look after their children," Wang said, adding that the kindergarten had about 200 children and 12 teachers.
Applying for the operating license is an impossible mission for Wang, as that would require an ownership certificate.
"We rented the classrooms from someone else. He built the bungalows on farmland, which was prohibited by the government. But nobody stopped him at the beginning," Wang said.
"Who can take care of my child?"
The closure of the Xiyangyang Kindergarten has brought great anguish to many migrant workers in the town.
"I asked my son to write his name repeatedly. That was the only assignment I could think of," Zhang Yanbing said.
A dozen parents said they were not informed of any resettlement plan and raised the same question, "Who can take care of my child? "
"It's certain that the problem can hardly be solved in a short period of time," Yang Min said.
With a migrant population of 100,000 in addition to 24,000 local residents, Xihongmen township has only three licensed kindergartens.
Seventeen kindergartens in the town, which have property ownership certificates but lack operating licenses, were exempt from forced closure, Yang said.
"If all the illegal kindergartens were closed, we would have no place to resettle the displaced children," Yang said.
The government has planned to matriculate the students of closed kindergartens into the three licensed kindergartens and the 17 remaining illegal ones. New kindergartens are also being constructed to accommodate the children, according to Yang.
However, many parents can not afford to wait.
"I have to find a new kindergarten for my daughter as soon as possible, or I have no time to restock the shelves (for my shop)," said 28-year-old Hu Xiaomei from Central China's Henan province. She and her husband run a cosmetics shop in the town.
"I'm going to lose my job! How can I take my girl to work?" said a 30-year-old mother surnamed Zheng.
Close the schools, lose the migrants?
The shutdown of the kindergartens in Xihongmen township followed the closures of another 24 schools for the children of migrant workers in Beijing earlier this month.
More than 14,000 children, mostly in the city's outlying Haidian, Chaoyang and Daxing districts,
were affected by the closures.
Besides safety concerns, Wang Xiaomin speculated that another reason leading to her kindergarten's closure was that the local authorities want the migrant people to leave.
"A local official once told me that the migrant workers have become a heavy burden for Beijing,
especially in Daxing District. But I think we've contributed a lot to the city. You see the
skyscrapers in the city proper? They're the sweat and toil of migrant workers," Wang said.
The results of China's sixth nationwide census show that Beijing has about 19.6 million permanent residents, while the nation's capital aims to bring its population within 18 million in 2020.
The migrant population made up 35.9 percent of Beijing's total population in 2010, up from 18.9 percent in 2000.
Due to restrictions in the country's household registration (hukou) system, migrant workers cannot enjoy the same treatment in terms of education, medical care, social insurance as local residents.
"The emergence of kindergartens and schools for migrant children is a self-saving effort resulting from scarce public educational resources. It's wise for the government to help the schools improve their facilities and quality of education," said Yang Dongping, president of the 21st Century Education Development Research Institute, a nongovernmental organization dedicated to improving education in China.
If the government decides to close illegal schools, they should come out with an
effective resettlement plan in advance, he said.
Some migrant workers have said they had to pay extra fees to enroll their children in government-subsidized kindergartens.
"Beijing shouldn't try to control its population by simply raising the threshold for entering the city," said Lu Jiehua, a sociology professor with Peking University.
China will see a faster pace of urbanization from 2011 to 2015, Lu said.
"I'm concerned that population control policies could deprive migrant workers of their rights,
which may lead to major social conflicts."