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School for migrants' children to remain open

Updated: 2012-08-07 08:05
By Luo Wangshu ( China Daily)

A Beijing school for migrant workers' children that has been fighting a closure order will begin enrollment on Friday as scheduled, after school supporters reached a compromise with education officials.

Parents of the 658 students at Tongxin Experimental Primary School had been bracing for the daunting prospect of finding new schools for the youngsters.

However, "authorities say the school will be able to start the fall semester as usual", said honorary principal Sun Heng on Monday.

A temporary agreement had been reached over an earlier closure notice that "at least allows us to reopen on Aug 20", he added.

The news comes days after the local government cut off the water supply to the school, in northern Chaoyang district.

The officials "claimed it was to fix underground pipes", Sun said, adding that on the same day, a digger started "construction" in front of the school gates without any prior notice.

Mud was piled at the school's gate, making it difficult for students who are taking part in the school's summer camp to enter or leave the campus.

"The water came back on the next day," Sun said, adding that by Sunday, the road was smooth again and the digger had gone.

The Jinzhan township government, which administers the area, did not respond to an interview request. Neither did Beijing's education commission nor the Ministry of Education.

Ju Jianying, the mother of a second-grader at Tongxin Experimental Primary School, said she is relieved the school will remain open.

"My son loves the school," said the cleaner, a migrant from Henan province. "The school is right next to our family's apartment, and I wouldn't have much time to take him to one farther away. I have lots of work to do."

Tongxin Experimental Primary School, which opened in 2005, has 32 teachers and scores of volunteers from Beijing universities. It has been recognized as a model school for migrant workers' children, receiving subsidies and social supports from celebrities and universities. It also plays as the research center of many prestigious universities.

However, on June 19, the principal received a notice from Jinzhan township's education and hygiene authorities that ordered him to close the school immediately because of safety issues. The notice accused the school of lacking proper credentials.

The move prompted six celebrities, including former talk show host Cui Yongyuan and several professors, to send a letter to the Ministry of Education, calling for the preservation of the school.

In the letter, they wrote: "The Tongxin school shows how migrant workers are involved in the city, and are aiding in the city's development. The school and its people are precious education resources. Children who study here will benefit from its education for their whole lives."

Cui also posted on a micro blog on July 31 that education authorities had responded to the concerns and promised that no child will be left out of school at Tongxin.

"Because of responsible adults, children can pay attention to their studies without distractions," Cui wrote.

Beijing education authorities have made great efforts to settle migrant workers' children, and made a promise that no child would be left out of school in 2011.

The Ministry of Education recently announced plans to avoid shutdowns and merging schools, Xinhua News Agency reported.

"The best way to improve education is to conduct an equal competition among public schools, elite schools, and the ones for migrant workers' children," said Li Changping, director of the China Rural Construction and Planning Institute and one of the co-signers of the letter to the ministry.

Li added that it is the government's responsibility to offer resources and guidance to less-developed schools, and to provide all children from different families and backgrounds the same educational opportunities.

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