By staff reporters Shu Taifeng and Zuo Lin
“I was full of anger,” said Xie Zhenqing, principal of the Red Star Primary School in Beijing's Haidian district, upon recalling seeing his school demolished in early August.
Located in Haidian's Dongsheng village, Red Star School provided education services to children of migrant workers. It had been in operation for 12 years and boasted an enrollment of 1,500 students.
But on August 9, 2011, Xie witnessed Red Star School reduced to a heap of rubble.
The next day, New Hope Primary School, also in Dongsheng, was demolished.
This summer, a wave of migrant school closures has swept through Beijing. The Beijing Municipal Education Commission (BMEC) announced that 24 migrant schools in Beijing's Daxing, Chaoyang and Haidian districts are facing demolition, affecting more than 14,000 migrant children.
According to official estimates, Beijing is home to approximately 433,700 school-aged migrant children, of which 70 percent are enrolled in state-run primary and middle schools. Of the 100,000 migrant children that study in privately-run migrant schools, 40,000 students are enrolled in 114 schools that have not won approval from the state.
During a press briefing on August 16, BMEC Deputy Director Luo Jie stated that 20 percent of the unregistered migrant schools were ordered to close because "the safety of students and learning environment could not be guaranteed." He also said that the 20 percent of schools who met the standards would apply for approval as soon as possible, and the remaining schools need to devote greater efforts to renovate themselves.
Officials have cited “the significant safety risks of operating unlicensed schools in illegal constructions” as a major reason for the latest round of closures.
However, "fear of mishaps" is the main motive behind the crackdown, according to a source close to BMEC. The source stated that it is difficult for BMEC to manage migrant schools, and if anything were to go wrong, people would point the finger at the overall education system in Beijing.
Zhao Xiuchi, director of the Department of Land Resources and Real Estate Management at Capital University of Economics and Business, said the latest round of school closures is the result of Beijing's efforts to implement population controls and urban renovation.
In its “12th Five-year Plan,” Beijing clearly raises the tasks of strengthening overall population controls and improving the population quality. Moreover, policies issued in early 2011 such as restricting the rent of basements and raising the standards for opening small stores demonstrate Beijing’s motivation to reduce its “low end migrant population.” The recent round of school closures is being interpreted by some as the continuation of previous "population control" policies.
The majority of migrant schools are located between Beijing's Fourth and Sixth Ring Roads, which just so happens to be the core area of Beijing's most recent push for urban renovation. In 2010, the city relocated over 300 villages, carrying out transformation through various methods such as managing land reserves, developing industrial parks, driving key projects, and offering compensation to residents in exchange for vacating their old homes.
As the process of urban renovation continues, more schools are facing closure and demolition. Several migrant schools in Changping district, some of which are registered, recently received notices ordering them not to enroll any new students.
The closures have left many wondering what will happen to the thousands of displaced students as the new school year approaches. Caijing learned that relevant departments lack a complete plan for relocating students to new schools. In light of this fact, Beijing will have a hard time upholding its pledge of “guaranteeing an education for every school-age student.”
Full article in Chinese: http://magazine.caijing.com.cn/2011-08-28/110831071.html