Schools For The Children of Laborers

Because of the migration in China from rural areas to big cities, there are two big groups of displaced kids.

There are about 69 million “left behind” kids staying with grandparents (or alone) in the rural areas.

And there are another 34 million who followed Mom and Dad to big cities.  This group has limited access to public school, particularly around Beijing.

From Lavinia Liang, writing in CityLab:

Children without a Beijing hukou need at least five “proofs” to attend a public primary school, including proof of guardians’ employment in Beijing, proof of actual residency in Beijing, household registration permit, tax slips, and others.

Many migrant families cannot fulfill these five proofs—which is where for-profit migrant schools like Nanqijia come in. These private schools provide an alternative for struggling families. (The Chinese name for these schools translates to the descriptive, “schools for the children of laborers.”)

Migrant schools are of varying quality, and the majority only offer elementary school services; Nanqijia School is unusual in that it offers middle-school grade levels, although enrollment in upper grades is  low. As migrant children aren’t allowed to take the high school entrance examination in cities where they don’t hold hukou, most will have to return to their home province to do so, as well as to attend high school there.

Nanqijia School has a good reputation and attracts students, but struggles to get teachers.

Its likely fate is eventually to get bulldozed.

Nanqijia Village is one of the villages scheduled to be disrupted by a planned northern expansion of the Beijing subway system. The hope is that providing easy transit access to the city will encourage migrants to settle outside the capital area but still provide it with cheap labor. To date there has been neither a final decision nor a public timeline for the project, but the school is waiting, in limbo.

Land usage in China is separated broadly into “privately”owned farmland and publicly owned land. Nanqijia is currently the former, but if rezoned, then taking apart the school at the heart of the village would only be a matter of when and how fast.

The staff and parents of Nanqijia School have already made their emotional preparations; they estimate that they have a solid two or three years. Liang, a fourth grade English teacher, says that the good thing about it is that they are all frank with each other about the school’s eventual shutdown, and discuss the matter openly in staff meetings. They only hope that the shuttering will be as smooth and painless as possible.

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