Intravenous education: China hospitals set up ‘classrooms’ so sick children can study during nationwide outbreak of respiratory diseases, earns online backlash


Medical centres across China allow children to do homework on a drip. ‘Homework zones’ face online criticism that they are unfair on children. — SCMP

As China enters a seasonal outbreak of respiratory infectious diseases, the issue of special “homework zones” being set up in hospitals for primary and secondary school students has become the subject of much public debate.

Recent photos of young pupils doing their homework in hospital have gone viral on mainland social media, the state broadcaster CCTV reported.

In some areas including the eastern provinces of Jiangsu and Anhui, and central Hubei province, young patients are provided with desks, chairs, and a high infusion frame for them to study while on an intravenous drip.

Parents can be seen accompanying their children and helping them with their studies, the report showed.

Several years ago, a number of medical centres across the country were hailed for setting up such zones.

The special “homework zones” allow students to keep up-to-date with their homework while they are in hospital. Photo: Douyin

Many more hospitals have followed suit this year amid an autumn surge in the number of primary and secondary school students who have fallen sick with respiratory diseases, like the flu.

It is common for mainland parents to take their children to the hospital when they develop flu-related symptoms in the belief that putting them on a drip speeds up the recovery process.

“I did not intend to let my kid do homework here. But seeing that the studying atmosphere is so good in the hospital, I pushed my kid to do his homework too,” one parent was quoted as saying.

“My kid had to do his homework this way because if he did not finish it, he would have to do a lot more when he returns to school after he recovers,” another father said.

“This is a societal issue. We ordinary families can not change the unwritten rule that whatever the circumstances, you need to complete your homework,” he added.

The situation has sparked a debate on mainland social media.

“These kids may be physically ill, but these adults are mentally ill,” one online observer said on Douyin.

“The parents look relieved and pleased when seeing their kids doing homework. It seems this worries them more than the actual physical illness,” said another.

Another commenter said: “Opening a homework zone at hospitals is an inhumane idea.”

“I feel heartache for these students who have to study despite not feeling well. Are the students’ academic scores more important than their health?” asked a fourth online observer.

State media CCTV weighed into the discussion by publishing an editorial on November 23 which argued that while the homework zone arrangement is understandable, it should not be advocated.

“Forcing or inducing their children to study at hospitals is designed to erase parental anxiety about children not studying,” CCTV said.

“Children should not be the victims of this unreasonable practice of doing homework at hospitals. Their schedule should not be filled tightly. Allowing them to have a rest when being sick, cry when feeling sad, or just do nothing for a while is as vital as passing the university entrance exam,” the editorial added.

Children can even carry on studying while attached to an intravenous drip. Photo: Douyin

On November 25, the Beijing municipal education authority said that schools should make it clear that it is not compulsory for students to do homework while they are sick.

Amid rampant respiratory infection, many schools are forced to suspend classes and require students to return to school two days after their symptoms disappear. – South China Morning Post

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