Unofficial schools aim to boost prospects of China's migrant children
Xingzhi School in Beijing teaches nearly 1,200 kids not allowed to attend public school say their migrant-worker parents lack residency permits.
(Page 2 of 2)
Liu Shufang, the school's headmaster, says 1,156 students attend school here and another 1,000 attend just down the road. That's a big jump from 12 years ago, when the school started with only nine children. Mr. Liu says the students come from 24 provinces, some from as far as Guangdong in southern China.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
Liu sees no slowdown in the number of children arriving at his doorstep, despite the fact that the government has focused on economic development in interior provinces as a way to stem the tide of migrants to Beiing, Shanghai, and Shenzhen.
Liu, for his part, would like the government to rethink the hukou requirement. He says that as long as parents find work in Beijing, they will continue to come and will continue to bring their children with them. The money is good, and, as limited as his school's resources are, Liu says it is better than the schools back in migrant families' home provinces.
Still, while Beijing's skyscrapers are visible outside Liu's window, the school is inaccessible by car. Students walk over a rusting footbridge that crosses a dried-up irrigation channel to get to Xingzhi. The school consists of several single-story brick buildings; some of the most dilapidated ones are surrounded by corrugated metal with warning signs to "stay out."
Students must purchase all their own supplies in addition to tuition, which is the equivalent of $130 a year per child – about what the average migrant worker can earn in a month in Beijing. In their hometowns, Liu says, they could never earn that kind of money.
Despite the bare-bones operation, Liu says Xingzhi School is one of the fortunate ones.
A few years ago, it was granted an official license to run the school, which means it gets a tiny amount of money from the government to improve conditions.
Two years ago, the school installed a heating system; before that, they used coal bricks to try to warm the classrooms.
"It was dangerous," he recalls. "We needed to keep the windows open in the winter to let the fumes out. It was not warm."
Xingzhi houses grades one through six. After that, some students move onto a migrant secondary school, but for many, this is the end of the road. The children return to their home provinces and get jobs. Few finish high school.
But Liu is hopeful. His own education was interrupted by the turmoil of China's Cultural Revolution, when many schools did not function. He wants his students, he says, to have what he didn't.
Lui recently heard from one student that her older brother was going to university in the fall. Liu looks wistfully out the window of his office and breaks into a smile.