China accused of bias as it shuts migrant schools

AFP , Wednesday 17 Aug 2011

A welfare group accuses Chinese authorities of discrimination after dozens of schools for the migrant workers' children were shut down in Beijing, leaving them with no other educational alternatives

A welfare group accused Chinese authorities of discrimination Wednesday after dozens of schools for the children of migrant workers in Beijing were shut down, leaving them with no other education option.

The government has closed "around 30 such schools, disrupting 5,500 to 5,800 students" since June, said Zhang Zhiqiang, founder of Chinese aid organisation Migrant Workers' Friend.

"Authorities are biased against migrant workers... so the workers' children are unable to get a good education. I feel this is a discrimination of the system," he told AFP.

Migrant schools primarily cater for children of the hundreds of millions of poorer people who move to Chinese cities in search of work and a better life.

Under a complex administrative system, these families remain registered in their hometowns or villages, and do not qualify for the all-important household registration permit in their city of residence.

Without the document, the children are unable to enjoy subsidised education in public schools, and so enrolling in relatively cheap migrant schools is effectively their only option.

Zhang said that since December 2009, the government had shut down more than 120 migrant schools, often citing reasons such as safety breaches.

Xie Zhenqing, the principal of Hongxing Zidi Primary School -- a migrant school -- told AFP authorities razed the establishment a week ago without giving her any reason or advance notice.

"I was asked to go to the local government on August 9 and was told my school would be closed without good reasons, then they demolished the school," she told AFP.

"1,400 pupils and 45 teachers now have to stay at home," Xie said.

"I know nothing about what they are going do with the students and teachers, when the school will reopen, any relevant polices, what their plan is, I know nothing, they just shut down the school all of a sudden."

Many migrant workers suffer from discrimination in cities where more affluent residents often look down on them, sparking rising concern over the potential for this urban-rural divide to trigger unrest.

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