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Families of students killed in stampede to get compensation

FAMILIES of the eight students killed in Monday's stampede at a central China school will each get about 350,000 yuan (US$51,200) in compensation, according to an agreement reached between the deprived parents and school yesterday evening.

As of 8 pm, all the eight families had signed the compensation agreement, said a spokesman with the Xiangxiang city committee of the Communist Party of China in Hunan Province.

The dead included seven boys and a girl, aged from 11 to 14. They all died from suffocation.

By yesterday afternoon, 31 students were still in hospital, including the 26 injured and five others under observation for potential internal wounds.

Twelve-year-old Hu Mengyu, one of the five seriously injured in the stampede, woke up Wednesday morning more than 30 hours after she was knocked out. Still unable to talk, she wrote on a slip of paper that she was "sad" and unable to recall what happened.

"She wrote she wanted to see her teachers and classmates," said Hu's mother Zhou Tai, who was keeping Hu company at an intensive care unit at the Second People's Hospital in Xiangxiang. "But she was asleep when her teacher visited her later yesterday."

The city's health chief Bao Zhiping said yesterday Hu was one of the three critical cases. "They'll be out of danger if no infection or complication occurs."

The other two serious cases were in stable condition, he said.

Yucai Middle School, the private school where the tragedy happened Monday night, has revamped safety rules by rescheduling classes to avoid rush hour crowds.

The school has 3,626 junior high students stuffed in 52 classrooms, averaging 70 in each class compared with the maximum 50 set by the local education bureau.

"The school is apparently overcrowded," said Liao Weiqian, Party chief with the city's education bureau.

The government subsidy for nine-year compulsory education the school receives is rationed out for 50 students in each class. "We don't grant subsidies for the surplus students in order to discourage schools from recruiting too many," said Liao.

The government subsidy averages just a few hundred yuan a year for each student, but Yucai, considered to be one of the best schools in Xiangxiang, charges tuition fees much higher than that.

While Chinese public schools offer junior high education for free, private schools are allowed to charge tuition fees. Many parents also had to pay 6,000 to 10,000 yuan in "sponsorship fees" for their children to be admitted by Yucai.


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