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Migrant Children Face Hurdles in Schooling

Children from the families of migrant workers still face obstacles to studying in State schools despite the fall in the numbers of local urban pupils since the 1990s due to the family planning policy and the rising of cost of raising children. 

In Beijing, only about 100,000 children were enrolled in primary schools this year, while the number was 180,000 in 2000, dropping by 44 per cent over the past four years.


As a result, more than 100 primary schools annually were closed or merged with others during the period.


At the same time, the number of migrant workers rose sharply as the government encouraged farmers to move to the cities. "The drop in urban pupil numbers doesn't mean the rate for the migrant children to go to the State-run schools increasing naturally," said Chen Yan, an expert on education with the Beijing College of Education.


Although some districts and counties in this municipality designated one or two schools to take the children, most of them were kept out of State-run schools, he said.


The problem lies in the existing educational system set by the law on compulsory education, under which the appropriate funds for compulsory education could only go to those who registered permanent residence in the city, said Chen.


However, few migrant workers with children could register permanent residence in China's many large and middle-sized cities, including Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou.


State-owned schools can accept migrant children by demanding an extra 200 yuan (US$24) for each child per term, which becomes a burden for many migrant families with low incomes, though the local government also affords larger amounts of money for each child.


A lot of migrant children had to study in "simple schools," which are privately and specially run for them with simple equipment, but low tuition expenses.


There are more than 200 such schools in Beijing with about 40,000 migrant children studying in them.


"Only an amendment to the law on compulsory education, adopted on April 12, 1986, and put into force on July 1, can resolve the problem eventually," said Chen Xiaobin, professor of Beijing Normal University.


"The government has the duty to create more opportunities for the migrant workers," he added.


(Xinhua News Agency September 5, 2003)

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