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Lessons in hope and frustration

(China Daily)

10:36, August 31, 2011

Tang Siping talks with a student in Zhenxing School, Beijing, on Monday. (Photo: China Daily)

BEIJING, Aug. 31 (Xinhuanet) – The new school term might be the last one Tang Siping will spend with his 1,500 students - all children of migrant workers.

Since June, at least 24 schools for the children of migrant workers have been closed in Beijing's Daxing, Haidian and Chaoyang districts, forcing 14,000 students to transfer to other schools.

"I'm prepared for the worst, that I will have to close the school, but I still hope that the education authority won't turn a deaf ear to us," Tang said.

Having poured his life savings into building Zhenxing School, and relocating it five times, the 63-year-old simply can't afford to move again.

Land acquisition and demolitions have already started in neighboring areas.

"I just hope the school will be merged into public schools so the government will ensure its operation," Tang said.

Tang, who used to work as a teacher in the private Xinghua College in Beijing, retired in 1999.

Not long after, Tang saw two children of migrant workers fighting on the street for rubbish in the same waste bin.

"One was from Sichuan province, the other from Anhui province, both 11, they said they didn't have money to go to school," he said.

At that time, access to public schools was mostly restricted to Beijing natives. Although the Beijing Municipal Commission of Education issued a regulation to open public schools to migrant workers' children, they had to pay extra money.

Moreover, their parents could not afford tuition for private schools.

Tang heard that more and more young people from migrant families committed crimes after dropping out of school.

So in 2000, Tang took 100,000 yuan ($15,700), one-third of his life savings, rented a piece of land, built 30 single-story houses in Shucun village in Haidian, and had 10 of his friends volunteer to teach in his school.

That year the school had 70 students aged from 6 to 12, studying various lessons including math, Chinese language, English, music, art and sports. Each student paid 700 yuan a year to the school - a price that remained unchanged until 2009.
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