Principals fear up to 15,000 pupils at 30 Beijing schools will have to drop out and return to their villages
A crackdown on schools for the children of migrant workers has been launched in the Haidian district of Beijing, with all but two or three major schools ordered shut.
Most schools have been told by the government that their facilities in the northwestern district have to close because their buildings do not meet safety standards. The notifications state that students should enrol in government-funded schools from next semester.
But educators doubt whether the district's public schools can absorb the estimated 15,000 children affected, and suggest pupils may have to drop out of the education system or return to their home villages without their parents.
An official from the Haidian Education Commission confirmed that all but a few schools would have to shut down this month, but would not give the exact number.
School principals said about 30 schools had been ordered to close.
Yi Benyao , principal of Xingzhi School, said all but one of the four branches of his campus network had been told to close.
'I agree that the government should shoulder the responsibility of providing education to children of migrant workers, but can these children continue going to school? Or do they have to go home and live without parental care?' Mr Yi said.
He said the crackdown might also mean that many children would have to travel far to attend migrant worker schools in other districts.
'If the government could really make sure that all these children could go to public schools then that would be a relief to us,' he said.
Like the principals of most of the early migrant schools, Mr Yi started by providing education for his children and those of relatives or people from the same home town.
Many of the schools are crowded and operate in rundown or rudimentary buildings. Although the government agreed to issue licences to schools that met safety standards, most did not have the resources to satisfy the requirements.
'But these schools have provided education to migrant worker children for two decades and helped prevent many of them from becoming illiterate,' Mr Yi said.
Zhang Gezhen , headmaster of Mingyuan School, said migrant workers struggled to provide the documents required by public schools. The paperwork includes temporary residence permits, rental contracts, employment contracts and a document issued by their local government stating that their children do not have guardians in their home villages.
He said the order to shut was too sudden and there was too little time for children to find a new school.
'I won't object to the government gradually sending all these children to public schools. But I doubt if the public schools have such capacity,' Mr Zhang said.
'They should do it step by step instead of shutting down all of them within one month.'
Haidian is the second Beijing district to clamp down on the schools after Fengtai district.
Mr Yi suggested that district officials ordered the crackdown because they were worried they might be held responsible and lose their jobs if there were any accidents at the schools.
'They are worried about their jobs. As long as they get rid of these children from their districts, they don't care if the children have to travel far to go to school, or drop out, or have to go back to their home villages and live without their parents,' Mr Yi said.