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  • » 09/14/2007, 00.00


    Dying at 16 to pay for studies

    Many schools have little or no state aid and they exploit child labour convincing students to undertake summer “work placements” in unhealthy factories for longer hours and less pay than adults, with their salaries given over to the school to pay their fees. The story of one young girl who died from overwork and lack of care.

    Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – June 24 2007 Liang Xiaowen, a 16 year old student from Maoming (Guangdong), began a summer work placement, found for her by the school, in order to pay for scholastic fees.  She died a month later from viral encephalitis, due to lack of care and assistance and weakened by 11 hours working days in the factory.   Her case is emblematic of how the very schools, minimally supported by the State, exploit child labour to survive.

    The China Labour Bullettin, the prestigious internet site that campaigns for workers rights, notes that Xiaowen’s  father was seriously ill and suffered from long-term paralysis, and her mother could only earn 200 Yuan a month (24 dollars) to support the entire family. Thus she accepted the South China Electrical Engineering College proposal to become an apprentice in the Pusheng Plastics in Dongguan for 900 Yuan a month, in order to pay school fees and earn some money for home.

    Together with 30 classmates, she paid 165 Yuan for the journey and “administrative fees”.  But once in the factory they were put to work for over 11 hours a day without a single day off. Many fell ill with sore throats, flu, and fever.  Xiaowen's symptoms were the most severe; after three days of a high fever she started to lose consciousness and her body went into convulsions.  The local hospital diagnosed the problem as viral encephalitis.  Liang Xiaowen died on 27 July.

    The factory management later denied Xiaowen's death was work related, blaming an “outbreak of flu” at the factory, and claiming that the school organizing the student workers was ultimately responsible for their welfare.  The South China Electrical Engineering College, which had recruited a total of 300 students to work in factories in Dongguan and Shenzhen over the summer vacation, likewise denied any responsibility for her death, saying it was “an unfortunate accident”.

    Often the State does not fund schools, particularly rural ones, and many scholars cannot pay the rate.  Thus many schools in order to survive organise “summer work programmes” (shuqigong) or “study internships” (qingong jianxue). Beside real apprenticeships there are exploited students, who work in unsafe factories for longer hours and less pay than adults, with their salaries given over to the school to pay their fees. Often no-one cares for the students, because the schools and factories shrug all responsibility onto the others shoulders.

     “Liang Xiaowen died, - concludes the Clb - not only because she contracted encephalitis, but because she was weakened after being forced to work 11 hours a day and no one thought it was their responsibility to provide her with proper medical care when she first fell ill”.


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    See also

    19/02/2008 CHINA
    Schools re-open, but not for everyone
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    14/09/2007 CHINA
    Beijing fails to pay schools and teachers
    For years now China dedicates less that 3% of the GDP to education, compared to the international average of 6&. In order to cover expenses many schools demand fees, particularly in rural areas. Those who cannot afford to pay, are destined to spend their summers been exploited in child labour.

    09/09/2004 ASIA
    Child illiteracy and child labour are the continent's main social ills

    One fifth of India's GNP is generated by exploited minors working in farming sector.

    11/06/2009 INDIA
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    The everyday scandal of child workers
    A reporter finds four teenagers, ages ranging from 14 to 16, working 12 hours a day in rooms filled with dust and cotton fibre in exchange for food and in-factory accommodation. Experts lament that local authorities are not stopping the use of child labour.

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