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News China Magazine: Left-behind children and helping hands

Du Guodong reports on REAP research in a special feature on left-behind children and boarding schools in the October 2015 issue of News China Magazine.


As millions of migrant workers flock to China's cities in search of factory jobs, they are leaving an estimated 60 million children at home in rural areas without one or both parents. In response, the government has invested heavily in boarding schools. However, these boarding schools often fail to meet students' basic needsboth physical and psychological. 

REAP launched the Dorm Managers in Rural Primary Schools project to address this issue. Dorm managers, who are responsibe for boarding students outside of the classroom, are often poorly trained, and their management approaches are frequently ad hoc, possibly leading to the extremely unsatisfactory living conditions found in many rural boarding schools. 

REAP evaluated whether a dorm manager training program could improve the health, behavior, and emotional state of boarding students. Overall, the training program was highly effective. Following the training program, fewer students reported feeling cold while sleeping, and fewer students experienced diarrhea. Students arrived to class more punctually and had fewer disciplinary problems. Finally, communication between dorm managers and students improved.

In a feature on left-behind children and boarding schools, News China Magazines discusses REAP's research within the broader context of what is being done to improve boarding school conditions.

"Over the years, China’s central government has attached growing importance to the problem of left-behind children, establishing boarding schools in rural areas across the country. In January 2015, the State Council, China’s cabinet, released its Guidelines on the Development of Children in Impoverished Regions (2014-2020), in which a comprehensive care system targeting left-behind children began to take shape, at least on paper. According to the plan, the number of boarding schools will be strengthened in 680 of China’s most impoverished rural counties."

"Nevertheless, according to a report on boarding school students in rural areas published by child welfare NGO Geluying, or “Growing Home,” the mental and emotional health of China’s boarding school students is a major concern. The organization surveyed nearly 100 boarding school students in 10 provinces between January 2012 and November 2014. They discovered that 47.3 percent of children surveyed suffered from acute “pessimism,” 63.8 percent said that they felt “lonely,” 17.6 percent suffered from depression and 8.4 percent exhibited suicidal tendencies. According to the Rural Education Action Program, a Sino-foreign joint evaluation organization that aims to inform education, health and nutrition policy in China, boarding school students have higher levels of anxiety and demonstrate poorer social skills than students who live at home."

Read the full article here.