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Call to protect children's rights
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A CPPCC member has called for legislation to protect the rights of children left behind by migrant worker parents and for more boarding schools to care for them.

In 2005, there were more than 40 million children under 14 left behind in rural areas after their parents went to cities for work, according to a survey.

Two years on, that figure is expected to have grown considerably.

Zhang Shiping, CPPCC member and director of the All-China Women's Federation secretariat, urged the government to take action to protect migrant workers' children at this year's CPPCC session.

Zhang submitted a proposal to the NPC/CPPCC meeting calling for legislation to protect the children and for more boarding schools to tackle the problem.

Children left behind are likely to experience developmental difficulties as a result of their parents' absence, Zhang said.

"Of all the migrant workers who leave children behind, nearly 20 percent choose to do so before their child turns one," Zhang said.

"The lack of attention and loneliness these children endure in their formative years is bound to have a negative impact."

Zhang said education is the most urgent issue for these children, with many dropping out of school at an early age and few making it beyond high school.

Some children follow their parents to the city, but the new environment can be just as daunting.

"Many of these children have trouble enrolling in local public schools as it's such a complicated process," Zhang said.

"Those who do get in (to public schools) struggle to adapt to a new curriculum and testing system, which often puts them at a disadvantage."

This situation could pose a serious threat to the stability of society, Zhang said.

"These children might grow up feeling marginalized and resentful. That's not a good thing," Zhang said.

"Migrant workers should be given paid leave so that they can go back home to spend time with their children," Zhang said.

(China Daily, March 10, 2008)

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