09/06/2007, 00.00
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School: no free textbooks for children of migrant workers

Guangdong pays for textbooks if pupils are legal residents. At least 1.56 million children are excluded because their parents are migrant workers. School principal says Beijing levies at least 70 per cent of local taxes but fails to provide free education.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Monday pupils went back to school and the Guangdong's education department announced that it was offering free textbooks this year for all its 10.25 million legally-born native rural students, the first mainland province to do so. The decision excludes at least 1.56 million children whose migrant working parents don’t have the hukou, or householders' permit.

Despite the lack of residence permit most migrant workers try to bring their children. According data released by the State Council last year, not only were more than 1.56 million migrant workers' children educated in Guangdong in 2005, but more than 40 million migrant workers living in the Pearl River Delta are expected to bring a further 3.56 million children into the province. Hitherto education costs were the main factor discouraging parents from bringing their children.

Charlie Xin, an educator who runs six schools for migrant workers' children in Guangzhou, said that although the “so-called nine-year compulsory education system” was supposed to be for all children, migrant workers' children were often left out and disadvantaged. He blamed Beijing for the problem.

“The responsibility for implementing compulsory education should be carried by Beijing because the Ministry of Finance levies at least 70 per cent of taxes from local governments," Mr Xin told the South China Morning Post.

“Our central government just wants local governments to bear the responsibility for education and for Beijing not to have to give them any resources.”

Children of migrant workers bear the heaviest burden. “It's a shame that we still sort local people from outside people in our country,” he said.

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