Clampdown on village nursery after photos expose rural hardship

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 20 December, 2012, 12:19pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 29 August, 2013, 4:13am

Education authorities in rural Henan province ordered the abrupt closure of an unlicensed village nursery after its children made national headlines in a series of news photos depicting the hardships of rural “left-behind”children.

Jin Huifen, a 44-year-old local woman and head of the neighbourhood nursery for 16 years, told the South China Morning Post: “I was happy when the kids became sort of famous after the reporters took photos of them. But now I am heart-broken. I don’t want to let my children go without school.”

The nursery in Yuzhuang village, Ruzhou, gained wide international media exposure after a Reuters news crew visited on Monday and later filed a dozen photos showing its two dozen pupils, aged two to five, reading in a farmhouse-turned classroom and playing in a dirt yard. But local authorities made a rare visit the day after, scolded Jin for running the nursery without a licence and ordered her to close it. 

Jin, a mother of three including one fresh college graduate, told SCMP by telephone: ”I guess they saw the photos and thought my little nursery made the county look bad.” But what she worried about the most was how the children could continue their schooling.

“The licensed kindergartens or schools are all far away,” she said. “The children might just drop out and go home.”

Most of her pupils, shown in the Reuters photos dressed in colourful coats, are the children of migrant workers who toil in cities far away from their native village, and are taken care of by their grandparents who have little means of getting them proper education.

The plight of China's rural "left-behind" children attracted broad attention in recent months after the suffocation death of five teenage boys in a Guizhou dumpster last month, and a knife attack in a Henan school last week which left 23 pupils injured.