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People's Daily Online>>Opinion

Deadly school bus crashes reveal growing pains

(Xinhua)

18:50, December 13, 2011

BEIJING, Dec. 13 (Xinhua) -- The second deadly school bus crash to occur in China in the past month has stoked public anger and revealed growing pains behind the country's rapidly expanding economy.

A Monday bus accident that claimed 15 young lives in east China's Jiangsu Province happened just one day after a draft of new school bus safety rules was published for public scrutiny.

The high-profile regulations, prompted by Premier Wen Jiabao, give school buses right-of-way priority and spell out strict safety rules that ban overloading and cap maximum speeds at 60 km per hour.

The regulations, however, do not specify how much the government will spend on the buses, which has become a touchy issue for schools and parents in underdeveloped rural areas.

As a result of China's rapid urbanization drive, many rural children have followed their parents to cities. This has led to the closure and merging of village schools and forced children who still live in rural areas to travel up to 10 km to faraway schools.

In a circular on school reform issued at the end of last year, educational authorities in central China's Henan Province said they would close down village schools with fewer than 30 first-graders.

Henan's city of Zhoukou alone plans to cut its primary schools from the current 3,789 to 1,582 by 2015, leaving just one primary school for every three villages in rural areas.

The authorities said the move was aimed at "improving the overall quality of schools" and "allocating resources in a more rational way."

The immediate consequences, however, include forcing children to get up at 6 a.m. every day for a long and bumpy ride to school.

Of all the school bus accidents reported in the last five years, 74 percent of the victims were rural students in underdeveloped central and western regions.

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