The closure of schools for children of migrant workers on the outskirts of Beijing has stirred a heated debate. All 50 of the migrant schools in the Fengtai district were ordered to shut before students returned in the first week of this month, the Beijing Morning Post reported. The aim of the move was to 'clean up low-quality people', the newspaper quoted one local government official as saying. The schools were 'not legitimate' because they lacked approval from local authorities. Although the central Government has urged the city Government to do more to provide an education for its share of the country's two million children of migrant workers, few officials have taken action. The Fengtai district Government was not alone in taking such a clear stand on the issue. In Haikou, capital of Hainan, 19 migrant primary schools have been shut down, according to the Hainan Daily. The schools posed safety hazards and had poor lighting and facilities. They were also short of teachers and funds. Most importantly, they operated without a licence, the newspaper quoted local education officials as saying. The decision left about 5,000 students stranded, said the Hainan Daily. In Beijing, a city of 13 million people, the number of youngsters refused public schooling because their parents do not have a residence permit is much higher. China News Service has reported that Beijing has 100,000 migrant children, but only 12.5 per cent attend school. The rise in demand for education in the emerging market economy has caused 300 migrant schools to appear since 1994. Most are in suburban areas and charge between 300 yuan (HK$280) and 600 yuan per term, well below the 1,000-2,500 yuan 'schooling donation' required by public schools. But there are no school outings, they do not provide vaccinations and few teachers are qualified, said the China News Service. Enrolments, however, keep rising. One headmaster told China Youth Daily her school had 400 students last term. The number had doubled by this month. 'We are running schools for the children refused by the public schools. Who can they turn to if our schools close?' she said. Fengtai district officials said they had arranged 4,600 places for migrant children in public schools and the 'surplus' should be sent back to their home towns. A mother from Sichuan told the Beijing Morning Post she would not send her child back, because all her family members were in Beijing and no one could look after the child at home. 'Who wouldn't want to find a good school for their child? But we can't afford the high tuition,' said another parent. Wang Chunguang, a Social Sciences Academy researcher, said migrant schools were important because they were better than nothing. The more education now, the less illiteracy later, he said. But effective supervision is also needed to ensure teaching quality, according to Zhao Shukai, of the State Council Development and Research Centre, who suggested public schools lower their fees. 'The family-planning policy has reduced the number of school-age children in Beijing and many classrooms and teaching materials are lying idle,' he said.