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Rural Youth Happy in Cities

Many young children moving with migrant families from the countryside to cities in China have found urban living is "fairly satisfactory" and are especially happy with the education situation in urban centers, a recent study showed.


In spite of the hardships they have to go through, along with their parents, in order to get a foothold in cities, 82 percent of the children surveyed responded that they were "fairly satisfied" with their situations, and only 12.7 percent dislike their new lives in the city.


These observations were announced yesterday in a report wrapping up the country's first-ever survey on the situation of the children of temporary migrant workers. The survey was implemented between October 2002 and April 2003 by the Office of the National Working Committee on Children and Women under the State Council, the China National Children's Center 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, Shaoxing of East China's Zhejiang Province and Xianyang of Northwest China's Shaanxi 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 Tsinghua University and is also one leading researcher of the survey, said the survey results might be "surprising" to some people.


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


Moreover, Shi believed the optimism, tenacity and strong wills of these children to adapt and improve their lives have also been underestimated.


"Seeing the light of hope in the eyes of those children of migrant workers 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.


In light of the fact that the temporary migrant population will continue to expand along with the economic development of the country, which provides the necessary economic labor force while facilitating 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 percent 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 has recently stipulated equal educational opportunities 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 to share the same rights as other children in China to grow up healthy and happy.


(China Daily November 6, 2003)

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