Zhang Lijia
Zhang Lijia

The central government might be trying to heal some of the wrongs related to hukou´s, like migrant children not allowed to attend schools in cities. But reality is still harsh, tells author Zhang Lijia in the South China Morning Post, as her neighbor´s kid is forced to leave.

Zhang Lijia:

The start of a new school year should be a joyful time. Instead, in Beijing, it has heralded tears and painful family separations: the children of migrant workers who failed to secure a place at a local school have been forced to leave.

The family of my neighbour, Mr Ma, a self-employed electrician, is among those affected. His wife has just taken their seven-year-old daughter, Qiuyu, and her visiting brother, Xiaobao, back to their home village outside Datong , in central Shanxi province.

Qiuyu had been at home for nine months, after her private unlicensed kindergarten run by a fellow migrant was shut down by the authorities who said it lacked safety measures.

My neighbourhood in Jiuxianqiao village is populated by migrant workers. In recent months, the Mas visited dozens of primary schools in the area. All migrant schools seem to have closed and all state schools demanded five documents, including a temporary resident permit, rental contract and proof of employment. Mr Ma had none of them.

Mrs Ma had decided to leave her husband and go back to her home village.

It’s clear that the government has not done nearly enough. Perhaps the authorities’ wish to maintain stability means they seek to prevent thousands of farmers rushing to the city. Perhaps our leaders do not fully realise the negative long-term effects on the left-behind children. If their problems persist into adulthood, how can we expect to build a “harmonious society”?

The government needs to take urgent action. It should offer financial incentives to local schools that take in migrant children or simply set quotas. Given that local schools cannot accommodate all the children, schools for children of migrant workers should be given legal status. Instead of simply shutting down substandard schools, authorities should offer support. And finally, the hukou system must be abolished.

Back in my neighbourhood, an air of sadness hangs over Mr Ma and his home; outside, where the family had spent many happy hours, little Qiuyu’s bike now stands forlornly.

More in the South China Morning Post.

Zhang Lijia is a speaker at the China Speakers Bureau. Do you need her at your meeting or conference? Do get in touch or fill in our speakers´ request form.

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