Logic of Bandit Behind Closure of Schools

In my latest audio program, I paid special attention to the migrant children’s schools in cities, especially the closure of dozens of such schools in Beijing. If you don’t know much of the story, you might check this link http://english.cntv.cn/program/china24/20110818/118654.shtml for the coverage of our national TV in English.

Should these schools be closed? According to regulations in Beijing, the campus of any primary or high school shall be larger than 3.7 acres, with classrooms to be more than 0.88 acres. It is a high standard which most schools for migrants cannot meet. Hence, it seems legal to close such schools. Moreover, you simply need a school big enough for kids to receive good education.

However, is it reasonable to close those schools? It might be legal, I think, but it is totally unreasonable.

If a school wants to meet the standard, it has to be rich since it has so much to buy and build, and it has to have a good relationship with the government since the land is state-owned in China. In Beijing, a city where everything is so expensive, a school, if not public, has to enroll some really rich students in order to be rich enough. Unfortunately, schools for migrants are usually poor because the students are from relatively poor families. Those schools can hardly meet the standard on their own, and the government does not sponsor them since they are not public-owned.

Beijing sets very high standard for schools, and refuses to help those schools for migrants: it is apparent that Beijing just wants those schools to shut down.

Theoretically, Beijing does offer alternatives for those migrants’ kids to study at local public schools. According to Beijing’s regulations, parents can send their children to public schools once they have a list of 5 licenses, but it is extremely difficult to get all these licenses since migrants have to travel between Beijing and their hometown to get everything down. Even if they finally get all those 5 licenses, public schools can easily reject any application by saying “We have no vacancies.”

The alternative Beijing gives is very hard to achieve, and even if it is achieved, there might be another block. It is apparent that Beijing just wants those migrants’ children out of its public schools.

With the number of local students decreasing and public schools being closed down correspondingly, Beijing’s policy on migrants is really harsh. It first announces where migrants’ children are accepting education “illegal”, and then it makes all alternatives inaccessible. It is also apparent that Beijing simply wants all those migrants’ children go back to their hometown.

If they do go back to hometown, they will become what Chinese call “left-behind children”, a group left behind by their parents working somewhere else. The consequence, of course, is damaging to those kids, and Beijing, obviously, have ignored all those ugly effects. Beijing is still a treasured place. Even if some are leaving because they have to take care of their children, more are flooding in.

Beijing is now enjoying the labor of “Outsiders”, making them do the jobs “Beijingers” do not want to do and taxing them as heavily as “Beijingers”. Meanwhile, they don’t give the same entitlements and welfares to those “Outsiders” as locals, and now they are depriving their children’s rights of education. Receiving without giving- it is pure logic of bandit.

Yes. Beijing has promised that all students of those toppled schools will have somewhere to go, and none will be left, but it is not enough, and I doubt the sincerity of Beijing government.

Any school which accepts migrants can put them into a separate class and allocate the worst teachers and resources to them, which means implicit marginalization and discrimination. There is even a report that one school has defied government’s order to admit those migrant students. So far, there is no guarantee from the government that those migrants would be treated fairly.

According to People’s Daily, a school for migrants is more than a school. It offers cheap or free shuttle buses and functions as a free care center. Both services are very important to migrant workers since migrant workers often work long hours and may not be able to take care of their kids like their local counterparts. So far, there is no guarantee from the government that those migrant children can still receive these crucial services at a low price.

Additionally, dining fees, book fees and other expenses in urban public schools are usually much higher than those schools for migrants. Once migrant children are sent to those urban public schools, their parents may not be able to afford all those expenses. So far, there is no guarantee from the government that these migrant children can receive any financial aid to offset the impact of rising expenditures.

As long as the government does not offer solutions to the problems I have listed, it is highly probable that it is more difficult for migrant children to receive education. And if Beijing government sincerely wants those migrant children to receive better education, why doesn’t it simply give the buildings and facilities of closed public schools to those schools for migrants? Why does it still want to close those schools, demolish their buildings and make those children and their parents stranded?!

I have been talking about Beijing, but Beijing is not the sole city which has such schools for migrants. Any city, even if it does not close such schools, is no different from Beijing as long as it does not the legitimate demands of education of those migrants. “Locals” “Outsiders” “Urbaners” “Ruralers”… there would not be concepts like this, had the household registration system not been established 60 years ago. It might be really difficult to stop all those segregations immediately, but urban governments shall have its last bit of conscience when dealing with those who are also contributing to their prosperity.

The author Horace Lu is an intern editor of M4.cn. He can be reached at www.facebook.com/horace.lu.

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