Glut of absentee parents


MORE than 20 million children live with their grandparents or other relatives because their parents have migrated to other provinces in search of work, with many among them being forced to live alone.  

According to a recent China National Children and Teenagers Working Committee report, agricultural provinces like eastern China’s Anhui province have up to 22% of the children’s parents migrating, with the number increasing.  

The number of migrant workers was more than 140 million in 2005, according to Chinese Academy of Social Sciences figures.  

And many of these parents’ children suffer from loneliness, perform poorly at school and are prone to juvenile delinquency, it said.  

The local media often reports on their misfortune. One such case involved the death of a 12-year-old in Suzhou in Anhui province. The boy killed himself by drinking pesticides last year because he had no one to advise him on how to solve his problems, according to his suicide note.  

Though the working committee has vowed to organise the children into clubs and find them “acting parents to tackle the problem,” their huge number means it could take years before such an arrangement is possible throughout the country.  

A survey in Chaohu, in Anhui, last year showed that migrating parents had left behind 116,000 children. About 952,000 people, including 55,000 couples from the padi cultivation area, have migrated from Chaohu, according to Yu Zupeng, an official of the provincial committee of the Chinese Peasants and Workers Democratic Party, which carried out the survey.  

About 1%, that is, more than 1,000, of these children have no guardians. Such children have little communication with their parents – most Chaohu migrants talk to their children over the phone just once or twice a month, and return home only during Spring Festival. Some don’t even do that, the survey found.  

Deprived of parental love, many such children prefer staying alone and often become rebellious. For instance, a girl in Chaohu set her grandparents’ house on fire last year because she felt they couldn’t understand her feelings.  

They often feel frustrated at school, too. A recent survey on the 72 junior high schools in Wuwei County of Chaohu found that 80% of those who flunked the senior high school entrance exam in 2005 were such children, Yu said.  

Another survey, conducted in Tangchi Town Junior High School of Lujiang County in Chaohu, showed that less than 1% of such children passed the senior high school entrance exam.  

Also, only 4% always did well at school. 

If the government wants to help these children, it should first make it easier for them to study in the cities where their parents work, Yu said. – China Daily / Asia News Network 

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