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February 23, 2012

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Home » Metro » Education

Kindergarten shutdown spotlights migrants' woes

MIGRANT workers sending their children to an unlicensed kindergarten in a suburban area this week found the gate had been locked by the town government and the boss had run away overnight.

In Jiuting Town, Songjiang District, thousands of children of migrant workers are attending unlicensed kindergartens, an educational official of the town said yesterday.

The town government on Monday closed down the Sunny Bilingual Kindergarten, which consisted of a three-room apartment in a migrant workers' dormitory where several unlicensed "teachers" who could not speak a foreign language took care of more than 20 children of migrant workers.

Tao Liangzhou, the kindergarten boss who is also a migrant worker, ran away with money after the crackdown and local police are hunting for him, said the town's educational department director, surnamed Xing.

"I told Tao I was just a farmer and could not speak English, but the boss said I just needed to look after the children," said a teacher for 18 children surnamed Li. Tao paid her 1,500 yuan (US$238) per month.

The parents complained to the township government for the sudden crackdown that left their children with no place to go and their tuition fees wasted. Tuition for the illegal kindergarten was 550 yuan per month.

Xing said officials had sent notices several times to the parents since late last year, exhorting them to stop sending their children to the illegal kindergarten, but the parents ignored the warnings.

The kindergarten had no qualified teachers or teaching facilities, and its environment and sanitary conditions were poor. Children two and three years old just sat in the room all day and ate some cheap food at meals, Xing said.

"It just could not be called a kindergarten," he said.

The town government sent many notices to Tao to improve since the kindergarten opened in 2008. Tao would agree when the officials came but had done nothing. The government finally confiscated the desks and chairs and closed the kindergarten.

The department has told parents they can send their children to qualified kindergartens nearby that have agreed to cover the fees for lunch for the migrant workers, Xing said.

"We know the classrooms were small while children had almost nothing to study or eat, but at least somebody was taking care of them when we were working outside and the fees were cheap," said Zhang Dan, one of the parents.

He said he planned to quit his job for a while to take care of the children before finding another kindergarten.

About 4,200 children of migrant workers are studying in unlicensed kindergartens like the one shut down in Jiuting, one of the most concentrated areas for migrant workers in the city, said Xing.

"The educational department just cannot keep up with the pace of the increasing number of children of the migrant workers," the director said.


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