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Private Reform School Labors to Sign Up Troubled Children
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A retired middle school principal wants to open Shanghai's first privately owned, full-time training center for teenage dropouts, Internet addicts and other juvenile delinquents.


He is struggling to sign up students for the Shanghai Guanxing Training Center, however, as parents are unwilling to send their trouble-making children for special treatment -- a common dilemma among government-run reform schools.


Guanxing was set up to provide psychological training, behavior exercises and sports activities for youngsters who frequently make trouble or play hooky.


Zong Fulin, the center's director, estimates Shanghai is home to at least 100,000 such trouble-making students who are unable to study normally with their peers.


Schools can't expel trouble makers, however, unless they break the law, and parents think their children will pay a long-term price if they spend a year away from regular classes.


Zong planned to start his first class in March provided he could sign up 20 students. Each student is expected to pay a training and accommodation fee of 3,000 yuan (US$375) a month.


To date, the retired principal has only signed up 10 students after six weeks of accepting applications. The parents of some of those students are considering pulling their applications, Zong noted.


Administrators at government-run reform schools said about 25 percent of parents who are told they should take their kids out of regular classes refuse to do so.


"Parents simply aren't aware of the seriousness of the problem," said Zhao Xiangming, assistant principal at Shanghai Kangding Middle School, one of the 13 reform schools in the city that deliberately keep the word "reform" out of their names to avoid bias.


Zhao said that parents tend to consider it normal for children, especially boys, to be hyperactive and belligerent. He said most bad students suffer both physical and psychological problems that need early intervention and treatment.


But parents have other concerns.


"Although reform schools have taken ordinary names, a child is still likely to face discrimination," said Wang Yida, mother of a 15-year-old boy who often skips classes.


(Shanghai Daily February 12, 2007)

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