Students at primary and secondary schools in Guangdong province's Wuchuan city are being forced to buy their own desks and chairs for class, a Chinese newspaper reported on Tuesday .
For about 110 yuan (HK$125), parents of children at Wuchuan Chuanxi Middle School may buy used metal-wood desk-and-chair sets at the furniture store conveniently located next to the school. And that’s a good deal, because the ones the school provides to its student base of 1,200 are "worn".
For rural families in a country where about 150 million people still live under US$1.25 per day, a whole set would amount to days of wages.
Some Wuchuan parents interviewed by the Nanfang Farmer News newspaper said nine years of compulsory education was a big enough burden and that it was the schools' responsibility to provide chairs and desks for students.
Most parents, however, who struggle to even secure places for their children at schools, are afraid to “offend the school” and reluctantly comply, the newspaper reported.
Chen Kanghua, principal at Huangpo Central Primary School, said that because the school has recurring financial problems and “more than 600,000 yuan of external debt”, it simply could not afford anything more than its day-to-day expenses under the compulsory nine-year education system.
The schools say parents constantly complain about classroom furnishings being in disrepair so it would be better for all if they bought their own.
Wuchuan's Board of Education vice-secretary, identified by the newspaper only as Lin, confirmed that this sort of self-funding for classroom tables and chairs was going on in some schools and admitted that this had been going on for many years.
“With today's rising living standards, a table and chair set for less than a hundred yuan should not be a problem and we have so far received no parental complaints,” said Lin.