Schoolkids Lack Shoes, Warm Clothing

The plight of poor Chinese schoolchildren is highlighted after a blog posting.
2011-12-15
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Schoolchildren wearing masks walk through a playground in heavy fog in Jinan city, eastern China's Shandong province, Dec. 6, 2011.
Schoolchildren wearing masks walk through a playground in heavy fog in Jinan city, eastern China's Shandong province, Dec. 6, 2011.
ImagineChina

Schoolchildren in poverty-stricken areas of China's southwestern Guizhou province often lack money to buy proper clothes and shoes, and endure close-to-freezing temperatures in the classrooms, according to a local school principal.

Many of them struggle to attend school in the colder months of the year, principal Long Tongze of Ganhe Primary School in Guizhou's Anlong county told RFA's Cantonese service after he posted a microblog post headlined "Shock! A Guizhou primary school pupil attends school barefoot."

"All the schools in Guizhou have a problem with heating equipment, because the lowest temperature here is around zero degrees Celsius," Long said.

Long's tweet on the popular Sina Weibo microblogging service garnered a rapid response from local officials at provincial, county and prefectural levels, all of whom transferred funds to the school to ensure the children's health and safety were not at risk.

"We have just received the clothing [which was bought with] funds from prefectural work groups, the county [Chinese Communist] Party secretary and the prefectural Party secretary," he said.

"Now, the health and safety of the children is assured," Long said.

Long said the school had received more than 8,500 yuan (U.S.$1,334) since his microblog post on Tuesday, and had taken delivery of winter clothing, shoes and socks for its 178 pupils.

He said had been calling on the school's poorest families, making lists of names and assessments of their needs.

Migrants

Meanwhile, children of migrant workers in Beijing, who don't enjoy the same access to local schooling as their urban-registered peers, were suffering from problems similar to those of the Guizhou children, but in sub-zero temperatures.

Principal Li of the Red Flag Primary School for the children of migrant workers in Beijing's Chaoyang district said his school lay far outside the city, beyond the fifth ring-road, and that many of the children came from very poor backgrounds.

"We don't really have enough heating here," Li said. "We daren't use large quantities of coal, so we just use four stoves."

"The children here are the children of rural families, outside the fifth ring-road, whose circumstances are very poor."

"I've barely seen any children wearing gloves," Li said.

According to online weather reports, Beijing posted a daytime temperature of -3C (27 degrees Fahrenheit) on Thursday.

News of the deprivation suffered by China's least privileged children come amid warnings from top security official Zhou Yongkang that the government will need ways to manage growing social unrest amid harder times for many ordinary Chinese.

Zhou said on Friday that the authorities need to improve their system of "social management," including increasing "community-level" manpower.

Homeless

Earlier this month, prominent academic Yu Jianrong launched a campaign for thousands of homeless people on Beijing's streets, as they huddled into blankets in sub-zero temperatures in the underpasses of the capital.

China's traditionally export-driven economy has been hit by falling demand for its goods in the recession-hit West, although rapid growth had already dramatically widened the gap between rich and poor.

The average income of the richest 10 percent of the urban Chinese population was 8.9 times that of the poorest 10 percent in 2009, compared with 2.9 times in 1985, recent government figures show.

Earlier this year, Beijing authorities closed at least 30 schools in several Beijing suburbs, including Chaoyang, Shijingshan, Changping, Daxing, and Fengtai districts, with more than 10,000 school-age children of migrant workers left without a school place.

Reported by Hai Nan for RFA's Cantonese service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.

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