Cash for officials' new cars will buy school buses

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 20 November, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 20 November, 2011, 12:00am


Authorities in the Gansu city of Qingyang have vowed to put funds into school buses instead of new government cars, in response to the death of 19 kindergarten pupils in a bus crash there on Wednesday.

A report on the Qingyang government website said money earmarked in next year's budget for officials' new cars would be cut and spent on suitable school buses. It did not disclose the amount originally set aside for the cars.

The municipal government had also decided to spend 680 million yuan (HK$833 million) to set up at least 155 kindergartens in the city in the next three years, resulting in each township having at least one public kindergarten equipped with a standard school bus.

The new policy follows the accident in Zhengning county in which a nine-seater minibus carrying 62 kindergarten pupils aged between two and six, smashed into a coal truck on the way the private Xiaoboshi (Little PhD) Kindergarten in Yulinzi township. The deaths reignited public criticism over poor funding for rural preschools and a flawed rural education policy that left parents and schools with little option but to use unsafe vehicles to transport pupils.

The bus driver and a teacher were killed in the crash and the other 43 pupils on board were injured, 14 of them seriously, according to Duan Sisheng, director of Qingyang People's Hospital. Duan told the China Network Television that most of the children were in stable condition, but three might suffer lasting injuries.

The crash also prompted education departments to launch a 50-day nationwide inspection of school buses used by kindergartens and primary schools.

According to a report on the People's Daily website, a public primary school in Guiyang, the capital of Guizhou province, used its five American-standard school buses to provide pick-up services for teachers. Pupils wanting to use the buses, which cost 390,000 yuan each, had to make a request to school leaders.

Legal Daily reported that the Qingyang government had ordered the Xiaoboshi kindergarten, which had 737 pupils before the fatal accident, to shut down. It said the school would be taken over by the Yulinzi Kindergarten operated by Zhengning county authorities. A local company has donated a 45-seat bus to the kindergarten, which has three other minibuses. The children were expected to return to classes this week.

The municipal government has provided counselling services for the pupils and bereaved parents.

The families of the 21 victims will each receive 436,000 yuan in compensation.

Police have detained the owner of the kindergarten and the driver of the other vehicle involved in the crash.