11/16/2006, 00.00
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300 private schools for migrant children to close down in Guangdong

Local officials claim the structures do not respond to safety standards prescribed by law. An educator said the city order was a technical barrier to restrict private schools, which remain inconceivable for Beijing.

Guangzhou (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The government of the southern province of Guangdong has decided to shut down 300 private schools for children of migrants "for failing to meet safety standards". More than 300,000 youth would thus find themselves without any education because public schools would not be able to absorb them.

This was denounced by Xin Lijian, president of Xin Fu Education Group, who suggested that "instead of closing the schools, the government should consider putting in money to bring the schools up to standard". The educator, whose group operates six migrant schools, said: "It costs 4,000 yuan to put a student in public school for a year and 10,000 yuan each for construction costs. They would have to invest a total of 4.2 billion yuan."

Faced with these figures, he said, "it makes more sense for the government to support privately run schools by giving 1,000 to 2,000 yuan per student."

The Guangzhou government has issued a closure notice following a central government order to provide nine years of free education to children, saying that private schools that do not meet safety standards will be closed down.

For Xin, the problem is not school safety: "The government is using technical barriers to limit private schools. They have fixed ideas about what schools must look like and do not accept valid alternatives, but if they insist on this, all 300 schools will have no room to survive."

Just 10 years ago, Guangzhou had only 30 private schools: the growth in their number was due to the influx of migrants coming from rural areas to cities in search of work.

However the phenomenon has ground to a halt because of stricter criteria for state licences and because some students have been forced to leave their parents to go back to their home villages, the only place where they can study for free.

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