Parents' worry as migrant school faces shut down

By Liu Meng Source:Global Times Published: 2012-6-28 23:50:13

Volunteers help paint classroom walls at Tongxin Experimental Primary School, a migrant school in Chaoyang district, on April 20. The school faces closure due to safety code violations. Photo: CFP

Volunteers help paint classroom walls at Tongxin Experimental Primary School, a migrant school in Chaoyang district, on April 20. The school faces closure due to safety code violations. Photo: CFP


More than 600 students and 30 teachers are worried about their future after the migrant school they attend has been issued with a closure notice.

On June 19, the education and health department of Jinzhan township, Chaoyang district, informed Tongxin Experimental Primary School in Picun village, that it must close.

The school, attended by migrant workers' children, was established by Sun Heng, director of an NGO dedicated to improving life for migrants.

The notice said that the school's buildings have security, firefighting and electrical violations, and it is not certified to operate as a school according to education regulations.

Sun said Thursday that he is trying to keep the school going by negotiating with the local government.

"According to education regulations, only government departments at the county level or above have the power to close down a school, so the Jinzhan township government has no power to order a closure," he said.

The township government promised to relocate students to ensure they can continue their studies, Sun said.

"If our school closes, the children may have to go to public schools in nearby villages. But those schools are farther away, tuition fees are higher and there are very complicated procedures for parents to go through before sending their kids there," he said.

An employee from Jinzhan's education and health department refused to comment, saying the person who was responsible for releasing the notice is on a business trip.

A media officer, surnamed He, from the education committee of Chaoyang district said that she did not know about the notice, and the closure order did not come from them.

"We always make a detailed plan to relocate students and teachers before closing a migrant school," she said.

Chen Wei, who has taught at the school for two years, said she is worried Sun's struggle will be in vain.

"I don't dare think about my future after I found out about the closure notice," she said, adding that she feels emotionally connected to the children, and is reluctant to leave them.

Ju Jianying, mother of two students at the school, said that the closure notice has really upset her.

"How shall my two kids study next semester?" she said. 

As they have no Beijing hukou, (household registration), sending a child to a public school means she will face fees as high as 3,000 yuan ($472) for each child. 

Ju said that she had never heard of any safety issues at Tongxin school.

"My kids never felt uncomfortable after eating the school's food and the classrooms are usually disinfected," she said.

Large-scale demolition of migrant schools in Beijing started in August, 2011. About 24 migrant schools in Haidian, Chaoyang and Daxing districts, involving some 14,000 students, were slated for demolition to make way for urbanization, the municipal commission of education revealed at a press conference on August 16 last year. The children affected would be placed in public schools, the commission said.

Zhang Zhiqiang, founder of Migrant Workers' Friend, an organization that helps protect migrant workers' rights, said that the number of migrant schools in Beijing has decreased from about 320 in 2008 to around 180 now.

"Many local governments demolished migrant schools for reasons such as the school's security problems, but they also want the land," he alleged.

Zhang claimed that it is difficult for a migrant school to obtain certification to operate, as the government wishes to decrease the number of migrant schools. But the supervision of such schools is relaxed, making it possible for NGOs or individuals to privately run one with no legal basis, he said.

"I think it's hard for Sun to protect the school through legal methods, as the school lacks a legal identity," he said, adding that calling upon public attention is one way to protect migrant schools.

"The schools are still important to migrant children because they eliminate the migrant workers' worries that their children might have no place to study," said Zhang.


Posted in: Society, Metro Beijing

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