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Sunnier City Life for Rural Children

It's tough for the tide of young children of rural migrants who resettle in cities. But the resilient young easily adapt and are generally happy, a new survey shows.

In spite of the hardships they have to endure to get a foothold in cities, 82 per cent of the children surveyed responded that they were "fairly satisfied" with their situation, and only 12.7 per cent disliked their new lives in the city.

They were especially happy with the education situation in cities, the study showed.

The country's first-ever survey on children of temporary migrant workers was unveiled yesterday.

The study took place between October 2002 and April 2003. Overseeing it were the Office of the National Working Committee on Children and Women under the State Council, the China National Children's Centre and United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF).

A total of 12,116 temporary migrant workers with children, along with 7,817 children of migrant workers aged under 18 answered the survey in nine major Chinese cities. These included Beijing, Shenzhen of South China's Guangdong Province and Shaoxing of East China's Zhejiang Province.

"A friendly environment for temporary migrant children has emerged in China," said Christian Voumard, representative of UNICEF Beijing Office.

Shi Jinghuan, vice-director of the Education Institute of the Tsinghua University, who was also a leading researcher of the survey, said the results might be "surprising" to some people.

"Many people have become accustomed to complaints regarding the 'pathetic' situation of these children, but have overlooked one essential fact: that their lives have already improved over their older one," she said.

Moreover, Shi believed society has underestimated the children's optimism, tenacity and strong wills, which enable them to adapt and improve their lives. "Seeing the light of hope in the eyes of those children and hearing their laughter, I feel the great vitality of the Chinese people. It is this vitality that will help us overcome any hardship emerging in the transition of our society," she said.

Since the temporary migrant population will continue to expand along with the economic development of the country, which provides the necessary economic labour force while spurring the country's urbanization process, these children are receiving increasingly more attention, said Huang Qingyi, vice-director of the working committee.

Based on the fifth National Census in 2000, the research report holds the country's number of children of temporary migrant workers to be over 20 million, roughly 19.37 per cent of the country's total temporary migrant population.

"The migration of these children has blurred the old strict distinction between the city and the countryside in their hearts, and their experiences will decide their values and future life path, which will, in turn, directly affect the sustainable development of Chinese society," Huang said.

Therefore, she said the State Council will carry on with its efforts to ensure the equalization of the rights and interests of children of temporary migrant workers.

The State Council recently stipulated that equal educational opportunities must be provided for these children in urban areas.

Just as indicated by the name of the survey report -- Let's Share the Sunshine-- Huang said the government is obliged to ensure that these children share the same rights as other children in China to grow up healthy and happy.

(China Daily HK Edition November 6, 2003)

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