Closure of kindergartens faces major problem
Updated: 2011-09-01 07:23
By Xu Wei (China Daily)
BEIJING - Wang Xiaomin, principal of Xiyangyang Kindergarten in Beijing's Daxing district, had to announce to 180 children that their school would be closed for safety reasons from Thursday, the day the new semester starts.
The Xiyangyang kindergarten's dilemma is shared by another 30 unlicensed kindergartens in Xihongmen township. Township authorities issued an ultimatum to the unlicensed kindergartens on Aug 25, saying they would not be allowed to reopen for the new semester on Sept 1.
The decision could affect thousands of children but the township government, which had been authorized by the Daxing education authority to settle the children, has vowed to come up with a solution, Beijing News reported.
Located in a Southern rural-urban fringe zone of Beijing, the unlicensed kindergartens mostly service children from migrant families.
The Daxing district government launched a major campaign to crack down on illegal buildings and businesses after a fire at a rental compound in the district on April 25 claimed 17 lives and left 24 people injured. The 300 kindergartens became major targets in the campaign.
Wang Xiaomin and many other principals of these private kindergartens received the order to close on May 3 and were forced to give the children leave from May 10.
However, 31 kindergartens chose to keep operating secretly by evading inspections by village officials.
Even Wang could not remember how many times the kindergarten had given leave to the children due to frequent inspections.
According to Wang, the kindergarten was deemed illegal because it did not have a property ownership certificate or a certificate to run a school.
She said there was no chance she could apply for either certificate.
"Most of the buildings here were illegal and the certificate to run a school means we would have to go bankrupt to meet the standards," she said.
Zhao Yu, the principal of Red Sun Kindergarten, said the education authority had stopped issuing the certificate to run schools in 2006.
The local authority's decision not only hit the kindergarten principals hard but also many parents, who are concerned about their children's future.
"It is impossible to leave the children at home," said a 38-year-old woman surnamed Cai from Chongqing municipality. "At school she can learn to say 'thank you' at least."
Cai tried her luck by visiting three kindergartens in the village on Tuesday, only to be told that all of them have been closed.
For Cai and many other migrant workers who live in illegal rental buildings in the area, the two public kindergartens are out of reach, as both require a monthly fee of more than 1,700 yuan ($260).
Most migrant workers in the area earn about 2,000 yuan a month.
Meanwhile, experts said private kindergartens should be the primary target for government support as long as they meet certain standards.
"No doubt we need to close those kindergartens that cannot meet standards for safety, sanitation or fire control," said Feng Xiaoxia, a preschool expert from Beijing Normal University.
"But those who do meet the safety standards and are suffering from limited space or teaching resources should be the primary target of government support."
Feng insisted that a classification system should be introduced for kindergartens which would allow private ones to operate at a lower standard to be able to serve low-income families.