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August 7, 2009

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Home » Metro » Education

Migrants face school closure plight

JIANG Caixia, a native of Anhui Province, was shocked when her recent attempt to pay tuition for the coming term at a school for the children of migrant workers in Shanghai's Minhang District was turned down.

"Government officials asked me to send my kids back to Anhui to receive their education," the worried mother said. "We work here. Who would take care of our children so far away?"

Jiang, who came to the city about 10 years ago, got married and gave birth to a boy and girl, is not alone in her plight.

Another 700 students at the same primary school are in the same fix, according to Zhang Songye, president of the Tang'an Village facility. And many other migrant families across the city may be facing similar circumstances.

Minhang's Wujing Town government planned to begin dismantling 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 city government.

But the demolition in Minhang prompted protests from dozens of parents and has been put on hold.

The school has about 900 students. Only 200 have been transferred to nearby public schools while others failed because their parents don't have the three required certificates: a local residency permit, a residency permit for their children from their hometown and proof of employment for the parents.

Education authorities said they are now trying to relocate the remaining 700 students.

Jiang, who sells vegetables, and her husband, a private driver, don't have employment certificates.

"I am self-employed and my husband works for a man instead of a company. We have no place to get proof of employment," she said.

Hundreds of other parents are trying to provide the required documents, according to the school president.

But even if they do succeed, there is little space available, as the town has only two public primary schools.

"Parents ask why other kids can be relocated to a nearby school while their kids have to go to schools in other towns," said Hua Zhixiong of the Minhang District Education Bureau. "But educational resources are limited."

The problem came to a head when the Shanghai Education Commission announced last year it would regulate the 240-plus migrant schools in the city, closing the substandard facilities and turning the good ones into private schools under the wing of the city government.

Non-local children can enjoy the same free education as locals in public schools as long as they meet the government registration requirements. But many failed to provide the proper certification.

The conflict at the Minhang school was aggravated last Saturday when a local regulation called for the dismantling of all illegal buildings in the area.

The school covers about 1,000 square meters, but nearly 700 square meters comprise structures that were built without construction permits. The school also lies under high-tension power lines, which pose a potential threat to the students' safety, officials said.

"Many kids will have no place to go next semester if the government shuts down the school now," Zhang said. "It should at least not be closed down until the end of next year."


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