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Two preschool girls die from poisoning

By Zheng Jinran in Shijiazhuang | China Daily | Updated: 2013-05-03 01:30

Suspects thought to have tainted yogurt to 'damage' kindergarten

Two preschool girls die from poisoning

The family of a 5-year-old girl grieve over her body at a morgue in Pingshan county, Hebei province, on Wednesday. The girl died from yogurt poisoning after a week of medical treatment. Provided to China Daily

Two preschoolers allegedly died from poisoning due to competition for students between two rival kindergartens in Pingshan county, Hebei province, with experts saying the case highlights the lack of supervision in primary education.

According to a statement issued by the Pingshan county government on Thursday, Ren Shuting and her two granddaughters found a bag containing a bottle of yogurt and notebooks on the way to the kindergarten on the morning of April 24 in Lianghe village, Pingshan county. The woman picked up the bag and took it home. When her granddaughters, aged 5 and 6, returned in the afternoon, they drank the yogurt, while she was cooking. The two girls were found on the ground, foaming from the mouth and twitching. The older one died in an ambulance hours later, while the younger girl died on Wednesday after being in hospital for a week.

Ren, the grandmother, also took a sip of the yogurt because the girls said it tasted bitter, and she was in hospital for several days, the statement said.

The girls' family declined to make any statements on Thursday.

Yu Pengcheng, an official from Pingshan county's public security bureau, said the yogurt contained tetramine, a strong poison for rats. After a preliminary investigation, police found the poisoned yogurt was left on the street by people linked to another kindergarten in the county.

According to police, the two suspects, Shi Haixia and Yang Wenming, admitted that they injected the poison into the yogurt and left it on the street. Their intention was to damage the reputation of the rival kindergarten.

Shi, the head of the other kindergarten, had disputes with the girls' kindergarten over the enrollment of new students. She injected the poison into the yogurt and asked Yang to place it with some notebooks on the way to the rival kindergarten on April 24.

The two suspects were arrested on Wednesday and the case is under investigation, police said.

A publicity official from the county government, who declined to be named, said the government is working on measures to protect the children. All kindergartens in the county will be asked to check their food.

Yuan Ailing, a professor of primary education from the School of Life Sciences at the East China Normal University, said, "This is an extreme case showing the lack of supervision in preschool education."

Like child-abuse cases exposed frequently, the case stemmed from the lack of effective supervision from local governments, she said.

"Though many departments have their responsibilities in the management of kindergartens, they didn't perform their coordinated supervision duties well," she added.

Insufficient investment in public kindergartens led to a shortage of vacancies. Private kindergartens were set up to fill the void, and many of them don't have enough money to hire qualified teachers, meaning that they can't attract enough students.

"The local governments need to increase the financial support for kindergartens, and control the new private ones if the districts have enough kindergartens," Yuan said.

Many governments have started to increase the number of public kindergartens in recent years. In Beijing, some 118 new public kindergartens will open by the end of 2013. Guangdong province has also released a similar plan, pledging to build public kindergartens, so that they account for 30 percent of the total by 2013.

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