Migrant children are now losing school places in large cities

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 06 December, 2014, 12:31am
UPDATED : Saturday, 06 December, 2014, 12:31am

I refer to your editorial, "Brighter future for migrant children in mainland cities" (November 24).

You say more migrants are taking children with them to cities. But it is grossly premature to say these children "can look forward to a better life" with their parents. The harsh reality, sadly, is probably the exact opposite.

A more accurate analysis would suggest that migrant parents prefer to take their children with them to the city because of the grim, even dangerous, situation of leaving them in the countryside. Dozens of left-behind children in the last two years have experienced serious misfortunes, including severe injuries or death in accidents, or becoming the targets of sexual predators. The lack of parental presence and oversight must be a contributing factor. Without parental supervision, many of these children are distracted, lose interest in school and get into trouble. The picture is quite bleak for them. More awareness of the potential hazards has probably prompted migrant parents to take the children with them, even though conditions in cities are not really suitable for them.

Your editorial's glowing prognosis is based on an assumption of a likely improvement in social services for migrants with China's new urbanisation blueprint, promulgated in March.

Have conditions in cities for migrants really got better since then? Mainland authorities have pledged to improve migrants' conditions only in smaller cities, where those who drafted the reforms hope migrants will go. The reality is that migrant numbers continue to increase in the first-tier cities such as Beijing and Shanghai.

This is where the problem lies. China's new blueprint does not encourage migrants to move to large cities. Stringent measures are in place to deter migration to major metropolises, making enrolling in schools even harder for migrant children than before.

Under the blueprint, many of these children have lost their school places in many big cities. The situation was so grave in Beijing that hundreds of migrant children and parents staged a three-month-long protest in front of the local education commission office this summer.

In reporting the protest, China Daily said migrant "workers' children who cannot attend urban schools are a common problem throughout the country. Other major cities such as Shanghai, Chengdu and Guangzhou also have tens of thousands of children with no access to education."

The future is far from bright for migrant children.

Kam Wing Chan, professor of geography, University of Washington, Seattle, US