Some 14,000 children in Beijing are without education after Chinese authorities closed their schools, says the BBC. The children’s predicament reveals the inequalities in Chinese society: The children are all from migrant families. Under China’s household registration (or Hukou) system, migrant families must still be registered in their hometowns even if they live miles away in cities where they have found, or are seeking, work. Without registration, families are without state-subsidized services, like health and education, and children must attend cheap, privately-run schools that are mostly unregulated by authorities.
At the end of 2009, China’s population of rural migrant workers numbered estimated 229.8 million, of which about 149 million are thought to work outside their registered home area.
According to China’s Xinhua news agency, 24 schools in Beijing’s Haidian, Chaoyang and Daxing districts were closed just before they were to start a new term. Chinese authorities said the schools did not meet standards for construction, sports facilities and other safety issues; the head teacher of one school said that it was “unrealistic to expect migrant schools to meet these standards.” Another teacher commented that her 1,400 students now had no place to go to school. Zhang Zhiqiang, the founder of the group Migrant Workers’ Friend, said that the shutdown of the migrant children’s schools “highlighted discrimination against migrant workers,” while Xinhua said the issue had led to “wide public concerns over inequality in education.”
China’s meteoric economic growth over the past three decades since Richard Nixon led a delegation of US officials (including Vice President Joe Biden, who is currently on a 5-day state visit in China) has occurred “with largely unquestioned assumptions that increasing affluence would lead to a happier, wealthier and more equitable society,” notes the BBC.
Photo of migrant children's school by ashengrove
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