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Shame on China's public school admission policies.
Shame on China's public school admission policies.
Zhang Ming

-OpEd-

BEIJING — When Macau authorities recently uncovered a prostitution ring, the most shocking aspect of the case was that its alleged mastermind was a 16-year-old boy. Needless to say, the teenager in Macau, one of two special Chinese administrative regions, represents an extreme example of the more diffused problem of the millions of minors not attending school across China.

This nation is undergoing unprecedented urbanization. As vast as the country is, no village in any corner of the country can avoid being swept into this process. When adults leave home and go to the cities for work, they either leave their children behind with relatives or they bring them along to the city.

But because of China's notorious household registration system — hukou, which discriminates by tying access to services to residential status — the children of migrant workers are often refused admission to the schools where they live. Because of this, no matter their origin or ethnicity, the children of migrant workers are particularly vulnerable to delinquency.

Without families and schools to protect them — and, let's face it, both are indispensable — migrant workers' children lack the proper care, direction and education at a very early age. In the best-case scenarios, guardianship is given to their grandparents.

Whatever the substitute, it can't be compared to the love and care of their own parents. Just keeping these children in school, assuming they are admitted to one that they can get to, is a major challenge. As the data shows, a growing number of "left-behind" children are not attending school. Without their parents' care and discipline, these children are obviously vulnerable to all manner of vice.

Minors stick together

They are deprived of everything, except the company of other delinquents who are from the same background. With temptation, intimidation and coercion, minors are often lured into truancy, theft, prostitution or drugs. Other teenagers themselves are most often the ones who urge them to commit wrongdoing.

Those children who are brought along to the cities don't necessarily do any better. To date, despite repeated public calls, China's educational authorities still act with a planned-economy-era mentality. While migrant workers don't usually have problems finding work in the cities, their children's schooling is another matter.

Non-public schools run by caring people or by migrants themselves are mostly outlawed on the grounds that they don't comply with standards, and the local schools make it as hard as possible for migrant children to gain admission.

Take Beijing as an example. Parents are required to submit five documents before the school will admit a child. This is basically impossible unless their original village authority agrees to help. In essence, it's a way to control the capital city's population and deliberately limit the schooling of migrant children. The Beijing schools would rather have unfilled capacity than permit a single migrant child to enter.

While other parts of the world regard the right to education as sacred, it is these "five documents" that are sacred in China. This more often than not forces migrant children to return home and join those left behind. And when they can't return, they wander around the cities, out of school — juvenile delinquents in the making.

Surely the minors left behind are not going to willingly remain in the countryside. We've now seen that some of them are going to Macau, but it's only a matter of time before they go elsewhere, including abroad.

When educational authorities ignore their duty, children are left without options, and law enforcement must clean up the mess. The question is how law enforcement is going to manage when the number of such delinquents surges. Should we continue to leave the children of migrant workers to fend for themselves?

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Economy

In Uganda, Having A "Rolex" Is About Not Going Hungry

Experts fear the higher food prices resulting from the conflict in Ukraine could jeopardize the health of many Ugandans. Take a look at this ritzy-named simple dish.

Zziwa Fred, a street vendor who runs two fast-food businesses in central Uganda, rolls a freshly prepared chapati known as a Rolex.

Nakisanze Segawa

WAKISO — Godfrey Kizito takes a break from his busy shoe repair shop every day so he can enjoy his favorite snack, a vegetable and egg omelet rolled in a freshly prepared chapati known as a Rolex. But for the past few weeks, this daily ritual has given him neither the satisfaction nor the sustenance he is used to consuming. Kizito says this much-needed staple has shrunk in size.

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Most streets and markets in Uganda have at least one vendor firing up a hot plate ready to cook the Rolex, short for rolled eggs — which usually comes with tomatoes, cabbage and onion and is priced anywhere from 1,000 to 2,000 Ugandan shillings (28 to 57 cents). Street vendor Farouk Kiyaga says many of his customers share Kizito’s disappointment over the dwindling size of Uganda’s most popular street food, but Kiyaga is struggling with the rising cost of wheat and cooking oil.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has halted exports out of the two countries, which account for about 26% of wheat exports globally and about 80% of the world’s exports of sunflower oil, pushing prices to an all-time high, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization, a United Nations agency. Not only oil and wheat are affected. Prices of the most consumed foods worldwide, such as meat, grains and dairy products, hit their highest levels ever in March, making a nutritious meal even harder to buy for those who already struggle to feed themselves and their families. The U.N. organization warns the conflict could lead to as many as 13.1 million more people going hungry between 2022 and 2026.

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