Hey Hey and a Big G'Day toya,
China’s future population will include tens of millions who grew up as the children of internal migrant workers, with massive disadvantages socially, economically, in education, and in basic, 'normal’ family life. If these Chinese migrants had their own country, it would be the fifth most populous in the entire world. In other words, one cannot accurately consider the future of China without recognizing that migrant workers, drawn from their villages throughout rural China by the promise of the East, will play a pivotal role in that future.
Last Thursday evening we had our 2013 Children’s Day performance and without doubt it was the best performance I’ve seen in all of my eight years in China!
This blog is about a large group of children not only in China but also in many other Third World countries actually make up a large population of my students. Due to extreme financial difficulties, their parents had to choose between sacrificing their parenthood and giving their child some sort of future or having them tend fields etc. Most are from either small villages or towns and now reside with their grandparents or other family members due to their parents having to move to a larger city to find employment that pays enough to offer their family some sort of brighter future.
These parents are known as Immigrant Workers and are nothing less than slave labour.
The children are known as ‘Left-Behind Children’ and only get to see their parents once a year, maybe once every two years. I guess the advantage those have who study in my school is that for eleven days straight they get to have the comfort of living with their peers/friends and only then return to their homes for three days during which, no matter how much they love their grandparents etc I am sure they are reminded of their parent’s absence.
Our youngest ‘Left-Behind’ is little Princess, (in the photos below) she’s the tiny little thing with the big brown eyes and short hair sitting at the plastic red table in a pink dress and green belt. She came to us at the beginning of this term and at aged three lost both her parents in a house fire. Though her grandparents tried raising her and her brother it became impossible as they also needed to tend their fields until sundown daily to survive. Our school offered to take both her and her four year old brother in as here they get not only an education but also for eleven days at a time, be with friends/peers.
The other good thing about living at our school is that all students get fed extremely well, have clean water and being a small school they all get a comfortable dormitory they only need to share with several students.
My favourite ‘Left - Behind’ who is also my most favourite student of all time is Catherine (the one in the photo with me in the same pink dress as Princess (but older), green belt but with her hair in a bun). Always so full of happy energy and she loves English more than anything. Though her vocabulary isn’t that of a Grade 8, at Grade 4 her comprehension is by far greater than 99% of both Grade 7 & 8 students. Always first to put her hand up along with being first to try any new game I bring to class and she is also the top student at Grade 4 level.
The girl in the white spotted top in the crowd with me is Allanah who is my favourite Grade 6 student. She is the Catherine of Grade 6 and also the second top student at Grade 6 level and is simply an amazing student to teach.
The ‘Guys’ pulling faces are The Dudes and the shots with the girls around the same age next to The Dudes photos all pulling puffy faces etc are Miss Dudes and mostly all from Grade 6, Class 2 which would be one of the most amazing classes I’ve ever had the honour of teaching. They are not only self disciplined but love anything and everything I dish out to them. In most other classes it’s me as the teacher who provides all the fun and laughs but not in this class, they are like a class full of really intelligent clowns that go English Bezerk and most of the time it’s me on the floor laughing.
The young female Twenty Sumthings are my classroom assistants. Yep, not hard to tell why I’ll be staying on another year!
Though I have a handful of favourites I can honestly say that all other students from Grade 1 through to 7 are all just the same. So what I did with the ‘outside/pre-performance’ photos was to take photo’s all of my favourites from each level for future memories.
OK, on with the blog.
<u>The Facts & Figures</u>
According to the All-China Women's Federation, roughly 58 million children were left behind in rural areas by migrant-worker parents in 2010 nationwide. Not only is that two and a half times the entire Australian population no matter what age but it also works out to about one in every four children in rural regions in China.
About 79.7 percent of left-behind children are cared for by their grandparents, 13 percent were left to their relatives or friends, while the remaining 7.3 percent live by themselves.
China’s outdated Hukou, or household registration system, actually works to encourage this massive break up of Chinese families as under this system, which was designed to keep peasant farmers from flocking to cities under the old command economy of communism, entitlements such as housing, healthcare, education and pensions are tied to a person's place of birth and LEAVING that place means sacrificing ALL of those benefits.
<u>Any Migrant Worker Parents Nightmare</u>
Sadly One Example of Far Too Many
Last November, just as the cold of winter was setting in, in the city of Bijie in the southwestern province of Guizhou, five boys between the ages of nine and thirteen (all members of the same extended family) climbed into a garbage bin to find warmth. The next morning a garbage collector found them dead having suffocated from the fumes of the charcoal they burned to keep alive and warm. The boys were the children of three brothers, two of whom are migrant workers and ironically garbage collectors in the thriving metropolis of Shenzhen.
The third sadly had no time to take care of the boys welfare.
Many critics in China have fretted over decaying public morality as the country's economy rapidly grows and its people enjoy unprecedented wealth. A similar outcry erupted last year with the hit and run death of two year old Yue Yue in the southern city of Foshan. Video footage showed that the toddler was struck by a van that failed to stop after hitting her. Seven minutes later, after eighteen passers-by ignored the bleeding girl lying in the street, she was run over by a second vehicle.
Yue Yue died a week later in a Foshan hospital.
<u>They May Be Left Behind, BUT They Are NOT Forgotten</u>
<u>Part I: Unbearable Feelings</u>
Zhou Jing sat in her yard watching a black cat play with two ten day old kittens.
Her face was unable to hide her jealousy as sometimes to her it feels like she has been abandoned by her parents. Zhou is only fourteen and sees her mother and father only once a year, if that. She said they can’t even afford to call on her birthday. She now lives with her grandparents, her half sister and her cousin in Fushan Township in Henan province.
Her parents, both factory workers are many hours away in Xuzhou, Jiangsu province.
He Enfu, Zhou's sixty eight year old grandmother, said they work in the city to earn more money, whereas if they worked on farmland in the mountainous village they would hardly make any money if no money at all. There are nine people in the extended family and they have only 0.3 hectares of farmland from which we can barely feed themselves and seldom earn any money from. The mountainous region is not suitable for factories and there are barely any job opportunities so as a result most young people go to other places to seek jobs.
Zhou Jing says that she can't even remember what her mother and father look like.
The town’s population is around thirty thousand and more than seven thousand of them have become migrant workers. Her parents were forced to leave their daughter in their home village because due to the Hukou System it was impossible for them to afford the children's expenses in the city region, where education fees, food and housing are much more expensive due to the outdated Hukou system.
By working day and night without any weekends; Her parents can earn 4,000 to 5,000 Yuan ($629 to $786) a month.
<u>Part II: Regaining Strength Through Cuncaoxin Homes</u>
Nearly two thousand children in Jintang County have been left behind by their parents who migrated to urban areas seeking work. Most migrant workers rely on the elder generation to foster their children while they earn an income to support the family.
He Ping, the daughter of migrant workers who only return once a year during the Spring Festival, lives with her grandparents in the village. She said when she misses her parents she goes to what are known as Cuncaoxin homes to play with friends. Over twenty Cuncaoxin homes have been built and operated by the Jintang County government since 2005. They are sponsored by government funds and social donations and the homes offer places for Left-Behind children to read books, make friends and play games such as table tennis, badminton, chess and skipping rope.
Each Cuncaoxin home serves dozens of children from surrounding villages. The centers also arrange for the children to have regular health checks.
After the introduction of Cuncaoxin homes most Left-Behind children now enjoy better economic conditions compared with farmers' children. However, without parents' love and guidance many of them feel lonely and inferior and many suffer from psychological problems as a result. He Ping understands why her parents had to leave her hometown to earn a living in the city and believes that the best gift she can give her mother and father is a good report card from school and when she talks with them on the phone she never asks for gifts because all she wants is for them to come back to her.
On the weekends, volunteers who come to spend time with children keep a record of each child's activities and discuss any cases of abnormal behavior with parents.
Jiang Hu, a twenty four year old college graduate who has been working at one of the Cuncaoxin homes since March 2009, said that one of the keys to a Cuncaoxin home's success is providing a nurturing, stress free zone where kids can relax and have fun.
We never give them homework to do, just let them have fun!
<u>Policies to Help Lure Parents Back</u>
Local governments in areas prone to high percentages of migrant workers have been introducing more measures to lure workers to return home and make a living in their hometowns which helps alleviate social problems that can accompany long term child neglect. In Jintang County, the local government has been encouraging migrant workers to return home and start their own businesses with incentives such as tax breaks, access to loans and occupational training and officials hope the incentives will also allow entrepreneurs to hire local workers.
Beers N Noodles toya…..shane
PS: This blog is for all of those 58 Million children who somehow continue to go to school, study and survive without their parents. It is also for all of the Left-Behind Children I have the honour of having in my classroom each day of the year. ___________________________________________________________
The soundtrack to this entry was by Melbourne’s ‘Underground Lovers’ The album was ‘Rushall Station’ ____________________________________________________________