Date
22 July 2017
China needs to step up protection for rural children whose parents have moved to cities for work, say child welfare activists. Photo: http://www.jyb.cn
China needs to step up protection for rural children whose parents have moved to cities for work, say child welfare activists. Photo: http://www.jyb.cn

Student deaths highlight China’s ‘left-behind’ kids problem

The death of six students in China’s Guizhou province early this year has put the spotlight back on the issue of the so-called left-behind children in rural areas as parents migrate to cities for work.

According to Beijing News, six students — two girls and four boys — died to carbon monoxide poisoning in a village in Guizhou’s Xingren prefecture in January.

The deaths took place after the youngsters went to a dinner gathering at another student’s house on the night of January 2, police were quoted as saying.

After dinner, the friends decided to stay overnight at the house. Then they burnt charcoal to keep themselves warm as the house lacked heating.

Apparently there were no elders around at the house during that time. Hence, the children couldn’t get any warning that burning large amount of charcoal in a closed room could cause death.

As it turned out, all but one of seven students in the house went into a coma that night. In the morning, the lone survivor managed to alert some neighbors.

The six unconscious students were sent to hospital where they were pronounced dead.

The police announced this week that, based on autopsy results, they have concluded that all the six died from acute carbon monoxide poisoning due to charcoal-burning.

According to a report carried by Hong Kong news website hk01.com, the temperature in the village was just six degrees Celsius on the day of the incident, which is what might have prompted the children to burn charcoal. 

The students’ deaths prompted many netizens to highlight the problems faced by millions of children in China who are left behind in rural areas as the parents migrate to cities in search of work.

As the children are left behind, they lack proper care and guidance from adults.

Liu Changming, a member of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference and also principal of the prestigious Beijing No. 4 High School, pointed out at a press conference last week that there are now more than 60 million left-behind children in rural areas.

The problem, which stems from urban-rural wealth gap and China’s reliance on migrant workers, needs urgent attention from both government as well as the society at large, he said.

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TL/AC/RC

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