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August 15, 2009

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Home » Metro » Education

Angry parents, teachers block school demolition

A TOWN in Shanghai's Minhang District has postponed plans to tear down a substandard school for the children of migrant workers after a vice principal threatened to set herself on fire and parents and teachers rushed to confront workers sent to begin the demolition.

A few days earlier, district authorities relaxed school enrollment requirements to ensure that nearly all the children from the shutdown facility would be able to continue their education at local schools. Many of the parents, however, seemed to be unaware of the change in policy.

"We will ensure that all of the school's students will be able to continue their education next semester," said Hua Zhixiong of the Minhang District Education Bureau.

The government in Wujing Town, where the school is located, said it would resume the demolition as soon as the students had been relocated to nearby schools, though they didn't specify an exact date.

The confrontation occurred on Thursday when dozens of parents and teachers rushed to the school in Tang'an Village to stop workers from tearing it down, concerned that the facility's 650 students would be deprived of an education.

During the standoff, the school's vice principal, Hao Shimei, climbed onto a roof, poured gasoline and threatened to set herself on fire, causing more than 100 people involved in the dismantling effort, police and government officials, to leave.

"My wife was heartbroken to see them destroying our multi-year efforts," said Zhang Songye, principal of the Tang'an Village facility. "We are still 300,000 yuan (US$29,262) in debt for the school's construction."

The couple, from Anhui Province, established the school 10 years ago with 60 students in buildings with 300 square meters of floor space. The student number has grown to about 900, and 700 square meters of structures have been built without construction permits to house the increasing student load.

"We couldn't wait for years to get a construction license as the student number was growing quickly," Zhang said.

Wujing Town government planned to demolish the school at the end of last month under a citywide campaign to tear down substandard migrant schools and turn the better ones into private schools managed and funded by the city government.


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