Probe into intravenous drips for Hubei pupils

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 08 May, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 08 May, 2012, 12:00am


Hubei officials are looking into an incident in which a class of senior high school pupils were intravenously given amino acids in a night course in preparation for the national college entrance exam, an education spokeswoman said yesterday.

The bizarre incident, which was exposed when someone posted photos online of the pupils hooked up to intravenous bags on poles, occurred on Friday at the Xiaogan No 1 Middle School and has triggered a public outcry over the hardships that pupils face.

Fierce competition among pupils to secure a university spot has spawned a booming market in everything ranging from dietary supplements to special restaurant menus to hotel deals targeting pupils who would be taking the exam.

Amino acids such as glycine are important nutritional elements and are touted in supplements to help boost one's immune system and fight fatigue.

While stressing that the intravenous injections were voluntarily, school authorities said the programme was a good deal for the pupils, as each injection cost just 10 yuan (HK$12), with the state picking up the rest of the (unspecified) bill.

The school earlier said that half of the 1,000 senior high school pupils were involved in the programme.

But the provincial education spokeswoman, who declined to give her full name, dismissed the possibility of state subsidies being used to fund such injections, and she said an investigation was ongoing.

Professor Chu Zhaohui, from the National Institute of Education Sciences, said the public had good reason to question whether the pupils were being used by the school or higher authorities to make money.

Chu also said the school had definitely crossed the line in organising such a programme in classrooms.

'In particular, such classroom injections could expose students to medical risks such as allergies or infection,' Chu said.

A pharmacist with a major Qingdao hospital in Shandong province said he would not recommend such injections because of possible side effects such as nausea and vomiting.

He said there were several types of amino acid injections priced between a few dozen yuan and more than 200 yuan at his hospital, but they could be heavily discounted in the supply chain.

The pharmacist said that, as such injections were considered prescription drugs, medical check-ups were needed beforehand, particularly for recipients who were susceptible to allergies.

Xiong Bingqi, deputy director of the 21st Century Education Research Institute in Beijing, also noted that the public was outraged at the school authorities for allowing students to receive intravenous drips like patients, but in a classroom setting.

Still, he said the school officials might feel they were being unfairly treated, thinking they were doing the students a favour by bringing the injections to them, allowing them more time to study.

'But the strong showing of disapproval may prompt our school authorities to carefully consider whether they actually did a favour for the students or just for themselves,' Xiong said.

'There is also a need for the broader community to do some soul-searching over what we've done to our students to ensure they do well [on the college entrance exam], which does not necessarily mean they will be happy or successful.'