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Drowning Largest Cause of Death Among School Children
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Drowning has become the No.1 cause of accidental death among kindergarten, primary and middle school students this year, according to a report from the Ministry of Education. As of Monday, 85 children had died in 33 separate accidents, a sharp increase compared to last year's 18 deaths.


Road accidents, the top killer in 2004 and second last year, remain the second biggest cause of death, killing 51 and injuring 126. Natural disasters, last year's top cause of death, claiming 105 lives, dropped to fourth this year, said the report released yesterday.


Nationwide, a total of 188 students have lost their lives and 1,266 been injured so far, already up from last year's total death toll of 178, but lower than 2004's 231.


Zheng Zengyi, deputy director of the ministry's elementary education department, attributed the sharp increase in drowning deaths to this year's hot weather.


He said, after a ministry press briefing yesterday, that very few students drowned in swimming pools, but "because hot weather hit most of China this summer, many students, especially those in rural areas, swam in lakes, rivers and reservoirs where no lifesaving facilities exist."


On July 11, in one incident, five primary school children died in a river in Gaochao Village, Jinyun County in southeast China's Zhejiang Province, Xinhua News Agency reported.


"We've urged schools nationwide to strictly follow the newly implemented School Safety Regulation," Zheng said, after adding that students' lack of safety education is another factor.


The regulation, which took effect on September 1, clearly spells out that kindergarten, primary and middle schools nationwide should offer students safety education on swimming in lakes, rivers and reservoirs.


The regulation also bans students from undertaking physical training, such as morning exercises, on streets or major roads.


Public security and traffic departments should mark crossings at school gates and set up traffic signs, traffic lights and pedestrian overpasses as deemed expedient and necessary.


Jointly issued by 10 ministries including the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Public Security, the Ministry of Communications and the Ministry of Health, the regulation is the first of its kind since 1949.


"The regulation stipulates specific requirements for all departments concerned," said Wang Xuming, spokesman of the Ministry of Education. "We're expecting a decline in student casualties after the regulation is implemented."


Other measures stipulate that health departments should regularly check food and water quality in schools; regular drills should be conducted every term teaching students how to behave in case of fires, floods or earthquakes; and Internet cafes should be located at least 200 meters away from schools.


School principals violating these regulations will receive disciplinary punishment or face prosecution for major accidents.


(China Daily September 14, 2006)

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