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Archive for November 21st, 2012

Death in a Trash Bin

Suffer Not the Children

Death in a Trash Bin

Five boys aged between seven and 13 were found dead in a large trash bin Friday in Bijie, Guizhou Province.

They entered the steel drum to seek shelter from the cold, but died from suffocation caused by carbon monoxide poisoning. The place where they died was just a minute’s walk from a local sub-district office. This news saddened the nation. These kinds of grim accidents are only supposed to happen in fairytales.

Eight local officials including two district chiefs in charge of civil affairs and education were dismissed or suspended from their duties by the Bijie municipal party committee on Monday because of the accident. Some people believe that these boys’ families and society should bear the primary responsibility for the accident instead of the officials. They think that it was the ignorance and indifference from the boys’ relatives and society which caused this tragedy.

However, the officials are not innocent because it is their duty to guarantee every citizen’s safety. The death of the five boys reflects management problems within government.

If the education system was better, these boys would have been taking lessons in warm classrooms instead of leaving school. If the assistance system was more active, they could have been found earlier and may have escaped death. Indeed, governments and officials have done nothing which directly caused this accident. However, it was the officials’ inaction which left the boys to die in the cold. …

[Full report.]

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Disappearing Classrooms

Wang Lei, an independent documentary film director, posted a series of photos on Sina Weibo of his abandoned village primary school in rural Hunan Province.  One of the pictures showed the last words that were etched on the cracked classroom blackboard.  “Please take care.”

For Wang, this place was more than just a school. “My grandfather, my father, my brother and I all graduated from this school. Now the school is gone, I feel like some of the village traditions have been buried with it too,” Wang told the Global Times.

Abandoned schools are becoming a more common sight in rural China. Between 2000 and 2010, 63 primary schools, 30 teaching stations (smaller schools) and three secondary schools disappeared in rural areas every day, said a report by the 21st Century Education Research Institute, a non-governmental organization (NGO) focusing on China’s public education system.

The vast disappearance of rural schools was triggered by a government strategy in 2000 to remove village schools and consolidate education resources in counties and townships.

Some 229,400 primary schools, 111,000 teaching stations and 10,600 secondary schools have been abandoned over the past 10 years. These shocking figures include half the country’s rural primary schools, 60 percent of the teaching stations and over one quarter of the secondary schools.

At the same time, the number of students in the countryside has been decreasing. Over a third of the primary school students and over a quarter of secondary school students have left.

“Some of them have dropped out of schools altogether but a majority of them now receive their education in townships,” said Yang Dongping, director of the 21st Century Education Research Institute.

Missing Heart of the Village

Wang said this school used to be a crucial part of the social dynamics of the village. Whenever there was a wedding or a funeral, the teachers were invited. They were highly respected.

The dynamics have quietly changed. Many have left, those who are left often just spend their days gambling. Children have been left behind by their parents year after year. The influx of migrants into cities has hollowed out much of the countryside.

Cheng Hongbo, a deputy principal of Xifeng primary school in rural Henan Province, tells of how a student once mocked teachers by asking “what is the use of studying, seeing as my undereducated parents make more money than countryside teachers?”

Wang sees it all as part of a bigger problem.

“The fundamental teachings of the Chinese culture, the very concept of right and wrong, the core values of a society, once held together by village schools, are now lost,” Wang said. “These schools are not just about children. They are the center of a community and in turn help build a stable society.” ….

[Full report.]

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