Footage showing three kindergarten teachers suspending a boy over a window sash has gone viral on Chinese social media, stirring up fierce public debate about child abuse at Chinese schools.
The incident, which is only the most recent in a series of child abuse allegations at Chinese schools, took place in a kindergarten in Hengshui, Hebei province. According to the video clip released online, the boy was suspended over a window frame by three teachers, who also pinched his cheeks and filmed the entire episode for entertainment. The boy was reportedly punished for not waking up on time from his nap.
The kindergarten was later ordered to shut down temporarily, while the teachers were detained by police, according to an announcement released by local authorities on Nov. 26.
The boy’s suffering has incensed Chinese netizens. The hashtag “AbusingBoyForFunInKindergarten” has garnered over 3.2 million page views on Sina Weibo as of press time, with many criticizing the teachers for their “inhuman mistreatment of a child.”
“Schools in China have become hotbeds of child abuse. Every time such an incident occurs, authorities simply order inspections of schools, which in my opinion is a palliative method that cannot solve the problem. More laws should be made to protect children at school, while higher standards should be set for those who want to become kindergarten teachers,” one netizen wrote.
Child abuse has become a major social problem in China. Although there are no reliable statistics on the frequency of child abuse in Chinese schools, the rising number of reports across state and social media demonstrate a growing awareness of the issue.
According to the ninth amendment of China’s Criminal Law, released in 2015, if a guardian or person with a professional duty to care for juveniles abuses a child in his or her care, he or she will be sentenced to imprisonment of up to three years, or in some cases short-term detention.
Though the law has made progress in child protection, the public still takes a dim view of its implementation, as prosecutors must prove that physical harm has been done, which means that abusive acts causing no lasting or visible damage may go unpunished.
Meanwhile, the lack of professional kindergarten teachers and proliferation of unqualified kindergartens are partly to blame for child abuse at schools. According to CCTV, by the end of 2016, China will be in need of over 870,000 kindergarten teachers and 800,000 child-care workers.