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June 14, 2010

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Illicit kindergarten to be closed down

THE Baoshan District government will close an illegal kindergarten - a residential apartment jam packed with 60 children - after residents' complaints and media exposure.

"We will relocate all these children to nearby legal kindergartens or newly built ones by September," said Liu Zheng, deputy director of the district education bureau.

In the meantime, the bureau will periodically carry out health and safety checks on the 120-square-meter apartment in Dachang Town.

The kindergarten, set up about six months ago, has attracted many complaints from residents as many strangers flooded into the community to drop off or pick up their children every day.

Due to the limited space in the room, the children sleep in the corridor outside the apartment and play in the community, where they can get hit by vehicles.

Despite its poor facilities and hygienic conditions, the kindergarten was welcomed by many migrant parents for its easy access and low cost - 300 yuan (US$44) a month.

It's mainly filled with migrant children turned down by public kindergartens because of overcrowding or whose families can't afford private ones, which charge thousands of yuan monthly.

Migrant children

"Many migrants settle in Baoshan District these years," Liu said. "The existing kindergartens cannot meet the soaring demand. We are studying the migrant population distribution to decide where to erect new schools."

The kindergarten shortage and overcrowding is reported all over the city. Similar illegal kindergartens with poor facilities in rented apartments are common in the suburbs, where many migrant workers live.

Dachang Town alone has 12 other similar kindergartens.

"We have worked to crack down on illegal kindergartens since 2003, when 35 such kindergartens existed," said a town government official surnamed Hou. "But new ones keep popping up, especially in the past two years."

Many illegal primary and secondary schools that used to accommodate migrant students have turned into kindergartens for migrant kids as Shanghai started providing all non-local children with free primary and middle school education this year.

Apart from migrants, local parents are also finding it harder to win places for their children in local kindergartens due to the ongoing baby boom, which will not end for a while because people born in the 1980s, the last baby-boom generation, have now reached the right marrying age.

Local kindergartens enrolled about 352,000 children last year.

By 2015, the number will rise to 500,000, the Shanghai Education Commission said.


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