China / Society

Teen girl makes case for change

By Zhan Haite (China Daily) Updated: 2012-12-07 08:02

Editor's note: Zhan Haite, 15, went to kindergarten, primary school and junior high school in Shanghai, where she has lived with her family since 2002. Yet she was told she could not attend high school or take the national college entrance exam in the city because she is not a permanent resident. She was advised to return to her native Jiangxi province instead.

May 3 was my last day at school. Since then, I've had no option to study on my own at home in Shanghai.

I'd been preparing for the high school entrance exam on June 16 and, although we didn't have much hope, my parents and I never gave up talking to Shanghai's education commission. I wanted to take that exam, same as my classmates at junior high and thousands of other Shanghai students.

I wasn't doing badly at junior high, and I believed I could get into a good high school in Shanghai if I was able to take the exam.

All hope disappeared on June 7, coincidently the first day of this year's gaokao (national college entrance exam). We were told I was not able to take the exam this year by the education commission.

I was desperate and I wanted to seek help from the public, so the week before the exam I set up an account on Sina Weibo using my real name.

The Internet is an efficient platform to speak out and gain support. My mother was against it, as she was worried I might be attacked by malicious netizens. But our family is open-minded and she respected my decision.

I started telling my story on Sina Weibo and received many words of support that encouraged me in my fight to defend my rights.

It was inspiring when celebrities such as Yuan Weishi and Shi Shusi forwarded my posts. They backed me up. I was not alone.

There were many disagreements, and I've received many comments from Beijing and Shanghai residents against the children of migrant workers taking the exam with their children. Some talked in a disrespectful way, which I was not happy about, but I tried to talk to them and persuade them to think about equality.

Although we have different family backgrounds and come from different regions, all children should have the same right to an education.

I'm more tolerant and happier than I was six months ago. Not being able to take the exam may not be that bad. I thought my life was not complete without school, but in the end it's only one path: Exam, high school, exam, college, work. Now I'm open to more options.

I study English by myself, which used to be my worst subject at school. By reading English works, such as Dreams From My Father by Barack Obama, and watching videos, my English has improved significantly.

I believe I have a bright future. I'll still continue calling for education equality and for the rights of migrant workers' children, and I hope others like me will be able to take the exam in 2013.

Zhan Haite was talking to Luo Wangshu.

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