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Rural children struggle while their parents toil in cities


15:07, September 29, 2011

CHONGQING, Sept. 29 (Xinhua) -- Cold rice. A few slices of dried beancurd.

Tan Biyue takes the same lunch box to school every day.

The eight-year-old never complains, knowing it is the best her aging grandparents can prepare for her.

Her real agony comes from missing her parents.

Tan's mother, fed up with the tough life in the poor village in southwest China's Chongqing Municipality, walked out when Tan was still a baby.

Unable to support the family on the meager farming income, her father spends most of his time in the country's south, working as a migrant worker.

"I cannot remember what my mom looks like, but I'm sure she's sweet," said Tan, her eyes filled with tears.


Tan belongs to a lonely group that is known in China as left-behind children -- an estimated 58 million children who are cared for by a single parent, grandparents, and sometimes a distant relative or even a neighbor. Their parents have migrated to cities in search of work.

Of all the 58 students at Tan's Caoping Primary School, 35 are left-behind children.

Across Chongqing, the number of left-behind children is estimated at 2.35 million.

"My parents came home to celebrate the Moon Festival two weeks ago," said Tan's classmate Huang Yinshen. "My friends were so jealous that they didn't talk to me for days."

China Youth and Children Research Center found in a survey that more than 57 percent of the rural left-behind children suffer psychological problems, including cowardice, self-contempt, belligerence and resentment for their parents.

Child psychologist Wei Zhizhong, however, believes the percentage could be even higher.

"Almost 80 percent of the left-behind children have problems getting along with other people," said Wei. "Some are autistic and lack basic communication skills, while others are defiant and hostile."

Last week, three girls, aged from 10 to 12, jumped off a two-story building in the eastern Jiangxi Province, fearing they might be punished at school for failing to finish their assignment.

All the girls survived with injuries, as tree branches broke their fall.

The girl who thought up the suicide plan, 11-year-old Huang Jing, is a left-behind child. Her parents work as migrants in Jiujiang's city center and are rarely home.

"We should take a lesson from this tragedy and care more for these left-behind children," said the school principal Zhou Liangqi.

The local education authority has also called on schools to provide counseling to these students.

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