Schoolgirls Jump From Building

The incident highlights the psychological pressures heaped on Chinese children to excel at school.
2011-09-22
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Students play at a school on the northwestern edge of Beijing, Aug. 23, 2011.
Students play at a school on the northwestern edge of Beijing, Aug. 23, 2011.
AFP

Three primary-school children from the eastern Chinese province of Jiangxi are being treated in hospital after they jumped from the second story of a building together to escape academic pressure.

"Three primary schoolchildren were admitted to the emergency room of the People's Hospital in Lushan district, Jiujiang city [on Tuesday]," according to a video of the incident posted on the video-sharing site Youku.

According to the Chinese education portal Edualpha.net, the three girls were all aged around 10 years old.

The video showed interviews with three girls in hospital beds whose faces had been obscured because they were under 18, the video said.

"I have 12 pages [of homework in a weekend]," 10-year-old "Xiao Li" told the camera.

The principal of the girls' primary school, identified as Zhou Liangbei, denied that the children were under extreme mental pressure, however.

"They didn't want to come to school, so they were just playing around," Zhou said, adding that the girls' fall from the building was an accident.

"It's easy to get up there but they couldn't get down again," he said. "The door was locked."

Corporal punishment

Back in the hospital, the children painted a different picture, however.

"I'll get hit," was Xiao Li's response when asked what the consequences were for unfinished homework, saying the teacher frequently hit students who hadn't done it.

Xiao Li's classmate, "Xiao Mei," gave a similar response. Asked which teacher hit her, she said: "My English teacher ... [hit me] on the hand ... and on the face."

She said the homework was "too much" to complete.

Principal Zhou denied that his teachers had struck any of the children.

"Hitting people, I'd say that probably doesn't happen," he said. "But if they don't finish their homework, then of course there are consequences."

"These three children have poor study habits, and they frequently don't finish their homework," he said.

Calls to the Saiyang Center Primary School went unanswered during office hours on Wednesday.

An employee who answered the phone at the Saiyang district police station confirmed the children had been injured.

"Yes, they were injured, but they're probably not in danger," he said. "You can see all this on the Internet."

"We received the emergency call and transferred it through to [the ambulance] and the children were taken to hospital," he said. "Our responsibility ends there."

An employee who answered the phone at the hospital declined to give details of the children's condition.

Intense competition

Experts say that intense competition and focus on success prevalent in modern China is already taking a psychological toll on the young and straining family relationships.

She Jixiang of the Yunnan Mental Health Center, one of the earliest Chinese psychoanalysts and psychotherapists, said in a 2008 interview with RFA that younger and younger people were experiencing mental distress.

"There are a lot of middle-income families putting too much pressure on their children, who go off the rails," he said.

"All the way through the kids' high-school years, the parents are pushing them to work harder and achieve more, and finally the kids can't take it any more and they start to have psychological problems."

Suicide is a leading cause of death for Chinese women, and China is the only country in which the suicide rate for females is higher than for males.

Chinese people's overall happiness has been affected in recent years by widespread impatience, an approach to goal-setting entirely geared to material wealth, and a need to compete and compare well with others, recent studies have shown.

Reported by Fang Yuan for RFA's Mandarin service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.

Comments (3)
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Anonymous Reader

In case you haven't heard; Earlier this year, addressing the opening of the National People's Congress, Premier Wen Jiabao warned that if China wanted to ensure social stability it had to tackle corruption and address economic inequalities. This one smells bad; like corruption!

Sep 23, 2011 06:00 AM

Anonymous Reader

"Yes, they were injured, but they're probably not in danger" They are in the hospital, probably abused, and no one cares enough to even investigate? Must be another 'my father is Li Gang story' Pay-off's but not to the girls - shame on the police.

Sep 23, 2011 05:53 AM

Anonymous Reader

im 11 nd to me tht is just so sad y would they do tht nd that school should be shut dow n....i feel ba d for them nd that school its not the student fault its the teacher nd princable\
fault thts my part i would love to hear yours

Sep 22, 2011 02:56 PM

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