Archive for ‘children’


Chinese children miss out on winter holiday as parents send them back to class

  • Manager of private tuition centre in eastern city of Hangzhou says demand from parents has been ‘overwhelming’
PUBLISHED : Sunday, 10 February, 2019, 6:12pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 10 February, 2019, 6:12pm

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While most schoolchildren in the east China city of Hangzhou spent last week’s Lunar New Year holiday visiting relatives and opening cash-filled red envelopes, others found themselves taking extra lessons at a privately run tuition centre.

The manager of the company, surnamed Wong, said business had been brisk over the holiday period.

“Usually students have a week’s break for Lunar New Year, but not those who are sitting the gaokao,” he said, using the informal name for the National Higher Education Entrance Examination.

Demand for extra tuition from parents whose children were preparing for the test had been “overwhelming”, he said.

The cost of lessons during the holiday period was 250 yuan (US$37) per hour, Wong said, adding that most students had four lessons a day.

Chinese schoolchildren get a month’s holiday in the winter, which incorporates the national Lunar New Year break.

Wong’s centre does not just cater for older children. According to a report by local newspaper Metro Express, a woman surnamed Lu paid for her son, who goes to primary school, to have extra lessons in mathematics and science.

“Many children spend their whole winter holiday studying,” she said, but added that she had allowed her son to have last week off.

Another woman was quoted in the report as saying she had signed her child, who also goes to primary school, up for nine classes.

There are no laws against the operation of private tuition centres in China but they are governed by certain regulations. For instance, they cannot recruit people whose primary job is as a teacher and they are not allowed to teach classes beyond what the children have already learned in school.

China’s education ministry last year launched a review of more than 400,000 tuition centres and found problems of one sort or another at 65 per cent of them.

In the wake of that assessment, authorities in the cities of Beijing, Tianjin and Shanghai, and the provinces of Shanxi, Liaoning and Zhejiang said they had rectified the problem. Hangzhou is the capital of Zhejiang.

According to a report by Xinhua, a secondary school student from Shanghai, nicknamed Xiao Ma, said she had to get up at 6.30am every day during the winter holiday to get to her extra lessons by 8.30am.

“I don’t ask for a lot,” she said. “I just wish there were a few days when I could get a bit more sleep and have time to see my friends.”

Source: SCMP


Desperate Mongolians send children into countryside to escape choking winter smog

ULAANBAATAR (Reuters) – Mongolia has extended school winter holidays in the world’s coldest capital and many families have sent children to live with relatives in the vast, windswept grasslands to escape choking smog and respiratory diseases such as pneumonia.

The temperature is expected to drop to minus 32 degrees Celsius (minus 26F) in Ulaanbaatar on Monday night, as residents burn coal and trash to try to keep warm and concentrations of smog particles known as PM2.5 routinely exceed 500 mg per cubic meter, 50 times the level considered safe by the WHO.

Mongolia, a former Soviet satellite landlocked between Russia and China, has invested public money and foreign aid to tackle pollution, but improvement has been slow, with residents saying inaction has been compounded by a corruption scandal that has paralyzed parliament.

In a crowded township more than 40 miles from Ulaanbaatar, Jantsandulam Bold’s five grandchildren are breathing more easily after fleeing the capital.

“Fresh air and sun are most important for kids to grow healthy and robust,” says Jantsandulam, 57, making milk tea for her grandchildren in her home, a thickly padded felt hut known as a “ger”, or in Russian, a “yurt”.

“This little one had flu when he came here but the fresh air has treated him well,” she said, pointing at her five-year-old grandson.

The children are nearing the end of a two-month break, with schools due to reopen next Monday.

About 60 percent of Mongolia is covered by grassland, where the mining of copper, gold, coal and other minerals provides employment, while the Gobi desert envelops the South. But almost half the population live in Ulaanbataar.

Reuters calculations based on U.S. Embassy data show annual average PM2.5 concentrations hit 100 micrograms in Ulaanbaatar in 2018. They soared to 270 in December. PM2.5 in China’s most polluted city of Shijiazhuang stood at an average 70 micrograms last year, down 15.7 percent from 2017. The World Health Organisation recommends a concentration of no more than 10 micrograms.

The WHO said 80 percent of Ulaanbaatar’s smog was caused by coal burning in “ger” districts, where thousands of rural migrants, used to a nomadic lifestyle, have pitched huts. It estimates air pollution causes more than 4,000 premature deaths a year.

A joint study by the U.N. International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) and Mongolia’s National Centre for Public Health said children living in one smog-prone district of Ulaanbaatar had 40 percent less lung function than those living in the countryside.

“Air pollution aggravates respiratory diseases and children under five are most vulnerable as their organs are still not mature,” said Bolormaa Bumbaa, a doctor at Bayangol District’s Children’s hospital in Ulaanbaatar.

Families have already set up a pressure group known as Moms and Dads Against Smog, but after the protests they organized in Ulaanbaatar were ignored, the group decided to focus on encouraging residents to take action to protect themselves, said Mandakhjargal Tumur, a group coordinator.

“I don’t believe the government will do enough to reduce pollution in coming years,” she said. “That’s why we are now focusing on raising awareness.”

At the Bayangol hospital, Ulzii-Orshikh Otgon, 34, was forced to bring her 10-month-old daughter Achmaa in with pneumonia for the second time in a month.

“I believe it’s because of the pollution,” she said, adding that home air purifiers did little to help.

“Just by opening the door, our home fills with smog,” she said while breastfeeding Achmaa in the waiting room.

Doctors advised her to take her children out of Ulaanbaatar but she has no relatives in the countryside and rent is expensive.

“Decision makers have said for years they are fighting pollution,” she said. “They just wasted billions of tugriks on useless stoves and processed coal, which don’t change anything.”

Source: Reuters


Beijing school attacker injures 20 children

File photo of a schoolImage copyrightISTOCK
Image captionThe attack took place in a school in Beijing (not pictured)

Twenty primary school students in Beijing have been injured in an attack at their school by a hammer-wielding man, say officials in China.

The attack took place at around 11:00 local time (03:00 GMT) said Beijing’s Xicheng district in a statement on social media site Weibo.

Three children were reported to be seriously injured but stable.

The alleged attacker has been arrested. It is not clear what motive the suspect might have had.

Some reports say he was a former maintenance worker at the school.

The attack took place at the Beijing No.1 Affiliated Elementary School of Xuanwu Normal School, according to state-media outlet the Global Times.

The Xicheng district said it would work together with other government authorities to carry out a full investigation.

The attack comes after a Chinese man was executed on Friday for injuring 12 children in a knife attack at a nursery in China.

Violent crime is rare in China but there have been several attacks on school children in recent years.


In Vietnam, anguished mothers search in vain for the children they have lost to China’s booming ‘buy-a-bride’ trade

  • In the borderlands, most people have a story of bride trafficking – from kidnapped cousins and disappeared wives to vanished daughters

Vu Thi Dinh spent weeks scouring the rugged Vietnamese borderland near China after her teenage daughter vanished with her best friend, clutching a photo of the round-faced girls that she now fears have been sold as child brides.

The anguished mother showed everyone she met the snap of the 16-year-old friends Dua and Di in white and red velvet dresses, the words “Falling Into You” printed above their picture.

They went missing in February during an outing in Meo Vac, a poor mountainous border zone that is a stone’s throw from China. Their mothers fear they were sold in China on one of the world’s most well-trodden bride trafficking circuits.

“I wish she would just call home to say she is safe, to say ‘please don’t worry about me, I’m gone but I’m safe,’” said Dinh, bursting into tears.

I wish she would just call home to say she is safe

She is among countless mothers whose daughters have disappeared into China where a massive gender imbalance has fuelled an unregulated buy-a-bride trade. Most people in this part of Vietnam have a story about bride traffi

High-school students talk of kidnapped cousins. Husbands recall wives who disappeared in the night. And mothers, like Dinh, fear they may never see their daughters again.

“I warned her not to get on the backs of motorbikes or meet strange men at the market,” she says from her mud-floored home where she expectantly keeps a wardrobe full of her daughter’s clothes.

She has not heard from Dua since she went missing, unable to reach her on the mobile phone she bought just a few weeks before she disappeared.

The victims come from poor communities and are often tricked by boyfriends and sold, kidnapped against their will or moved across the border by choice for marriage or the promise of work.

Like many of the missing, Dua and Di are from the Hmong ethnic minority, one of the country’s poorest and most marginalised groups.

Traffickers target girls at the busy weekend market, where they roam around in packs dressed in their Sunday best, chatting to young men, eyeing the latest Made-in-China smartphones or shopping for lipstick and sparkly hair clips. Or they find them on Facebook, spending months courting their victims before luring them into China.

It is a sinister departure from the traditional Hmong custom of zij poj niam, or marriage by capture, where a boyfriend kidnaps his young bride-to-be from her family home – sometimes with her consent, sometimes not.

Others are enticed by the promise of a future brighter than that which awaits most girls who stay in Ha Giang: drop out of school, marry early and work the fields.

“They go across the border to earn a living but may fall into the trap of the trafficking,” said Le Quynh Lan from the NGO Plan International in Vietnam.

Vietnam registered some 3,000 human trafficking cases between 2012 and 2017. But the actual number is “for sure higher”, said Lan, as the border is largely unregulated.

Ly Thi My never dreamed her daughter would be kidnapped, since the shy Di rarely went to the market or showed much interest in boys.

Just two weeks after that photo shoot with Dua, the giggling girls went for a walk in the rocky fields near their homes. They never came back.

“We think she was tricked and trafficked as a bride, we don’t know where she is now,” said My.

Her worst fear is the teenagers are now child brides or have been forced to work in brothels in China where there are 33 million more men than women because of a long-entrenched preference for male heirs.

The trip across the 1,300-kilometre border is an easy one, said Trieu Phi Cuong, an officer with Meo Vac’s criminal investigations unit.

“This terrain is so rugged, it’s very hard to monitor,” he said at a border crossing marked by waist-high posts near where a Vietnamese man was selling a cage of pigeons to a customer on the China side.

Many victims don’t even know they’ve crossed into China – or that they’ve been trafficked.

Lau Thi My was 35 and fed up with her husband, an abusive drunk, when she grabbed her son and headed to the border.

She went with a neighbour who promised her good work in China, but she fell prey to traffickers.

My was separated from her son and sold three times to different brokers before a Chinese man bought her as a wife for about US$2,800.

“He locked me up several times, I hated him,” said My, who fled after 10 years by scrabbling together enough money for the journey home.

She is now back with her Vietnamese husband – still a drinker – in the same home she escaped a decade ago, a smoke-filled lean-to where her dirt-streaked grandchildren run about. But she is desperate for word from her son.

“I came back totally broken … and my son is still in China, I miss him a lot,” she said.

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