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Free Tuition for Urban Migrants' Kids Urged
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The new government policy of scrapping school fees for students in poor rural areas has received widespread support but there are calls for children of migrant workers in cities to get the same breaks.


Children who are taken to the cities by their parents seeking employment are still subject to urban school fees for their compulsory education, unlike their former neighbors who remain in rural areas.


He Xiaoming, a pupil at the Xingzhi experimentary primary school in western Haidian District in Beijing, said he hoped to stay on and study at a middle school.


"It is good news that my previous classmates in my hometown will be able to enjoy free education, but my parents cannot afford the tuition because Beijing-based schools charge a lot for those who have not registered as permanent residents," said He, who achieved excellent marks.


He's parents come from east China's agricultural province of Anhui and are vegetable peddlers.


Fu Zhiming, a teacher at the school, said, "Local students in the city will be able to enjoy free education almost at the same time as students in rural areas, but how about kids from families of the migrants?


"It is not fair to this group of students," Fu said, calling for free schooling for migrant workers' children.


According to Yi Benyao, principal of the primary school, authorities have made maximum efforts to help rural students from migrant workers' families receive better education.


The school currently has more than 3,000 students from some 24 provincial areas.


Education of the huge population in the countryside, home to 900 million people, has remained a hard nut to crack.


Since modern education was introduced a century ago, government-funded, free compulsory education has remained an unattained goal.


Over the years, citizens were upset by the lack of funding and government support due to wars, conflicts and other social and economic problems.


In 1986, China promulgated the law on compulsory education, which stipulates that the state should provide a nine-year compulsory education "free of tuitions" for all primary and junior middle school students.


However, the law does not guarantee funding of compulsory education, thus obliging many schools, particularly those in impoverished rural regions, to either go on collecting tuitions or charge "miscellaneous fees."


Surveys show that farmers, whose annual per capita net income was only 3,200 yuan (US$400) in 2005, must pay about 800 yuan a year for a child's elementary and secondary education.


But the new law on free education for rural school children has been welcomed by migrant workers in cities, who have called it a milestone.


( March 18, 2006)


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