On the morning of November 14, a truck driver fell asleep at the
wheel and ran into students jogging along a highway in Qinyuan
County, north China's Shanxi Province, killing 20 students and one
The 31-year-old driver, Li Xiaobo, who had been driving
continuously for almost eight hours when the accident happened, was
arrested on November 18. The victims' families received a total of
4.32 million yuan (about US$532,000) in damages from the county
government on November 20.
According to a November 16 People's Daily report, the
very day the tragedy occurred, the Shanxi Provincial Department of
Education issued emergency orders preventing students from jogging
or doing their exercises on the streets and highways, and demanded
safety inspections of all schools.
Nevertheless, these measures could not conceal the fact that
financial support for compulsory education, particularly in
impoverished areas, is sorely lacking.
The victims of the tragedy were from Qinyuan's No.2 Middle
School, which has more than 1,000 students. The school's cramped
little playground is inadequate for that many students, which is
why many decide to jog on the nearby highway instead.
A student who was injured in the accident said: "Trucks often
speed past us on the highway, which is very scary."
Xinhua News Agency reported on November 17 that students jogging
along highways is a common sight in the province. This is because
many schools have limited space for sports activities. As a result,
schools often stagger exercise lessons, or students take their
Playgrounds aren't the only things in inadequate supply. Tiny
classrooms are also a problem. It is not unusual to find 90
students crammed into a classroom made for 45, according to the
Early this year, some students in Jincheng City who had nowhere
in school to play a game of basketball decided to take their game
onto a frozen pond. The ice broke under their combined weight and
several students drowned.
Shanxi Province has a population of 33.35 million people. A
general survey shows that the space allocation for community sports
is only 0.82 square meters per capita, less than neighboring
In the early 1990s, the Xinghualing Stadium in Taiyuan, which
had hosted many national and provincial sports activities
previously, was demolished without approval. Two towering
commercial buildings took its place shortly after.
A new stadium was in the process of construction when municipal
authorities commandeered 0.73 hectares of the uncompleted stadium,
In September 2002, in the name of urban planning, the Xiaxian
government issued an order to tear down the county's only floodlit
basketball court, disregarding strong objection from various sports
According to a China Youth Daily report on November 17,
from 1989 to 2002, China's gross domestic product (GDP) soared from
1.69 trillion yuan to 10 trillion yuan, at an annual growth rate of
9.3 percent. However, current expenditure on education only amounts
to about 3 percent of the skyrocketing GDP, below the world average
of 5 percent.
The Business Times provided another set of figures. The
Mass Sports Department of the General Administration of Sports,
which is in charge of the national exercise or keep-fit campaign,
is given 1.8 million yuan each year from the state, most of which
is spent on administration. As a result, a majority of the
country's community sports activities are self-funded.
According to a report published by Workers' Daily on
November 17, in the underdeveloped western region in particular,
most county-level governments cannot afford the expenditure that's
necessarily incurred because of nine-year compulsory education.
Lack of funding has resulted in higher drop-out rates and
dilapidated school facilities.
In addition to reforming existing laws to provide more for
educational investment, experts have suggested that governments at
all levels include school reconstruction in their urban
(China.org.cn by Shao Da, November 25, 2005)