Children chained to a wall by parents working at Guangzhou construction site

What do you do when you have two children but no-one to look after them and not enough money to put them in kindergarten? The New Express Daily (新快报) from Guangdong has a picture on its front page today showing what happened when migrant worker parents in Guangzhou found themselves in this predicament: they chained their children chained to a wall at a construction site.

When reporters from the New Express Daily found the two children chained to a wall at a construction site in Baiyun (白云) in Guangzhou yesterday, they discovered that the parents were workers at the site. Every day the parents would come to work on the site, and every day they would chain both children to the wall. Several people in the area around the site started noticing the two children who were shouting and walking up and down in their little space, rubbing against the wall, and just generally looking bored. When the New Daily Express reporters started photographing the toddlers, they became quite camera-shy and smiled at the lens, and soon the young parents appeared.

The parents then told the reporters their story. Originally from Hunan, they brought their children along to Guangdong as they had no-one to look after them, and now they could not afford to put them in kindergarten. So to keep the children from running away or wandering into dangerous places, they decided to lock them up.

Yet as the New Daily Express reports, by chaining up their kids the parents are actually breaking the law and could be prosecuted. When the reporters talked with other people in the area about what the parents are doing to their kids, people disapproved yet many said they could understand why they did it. The New Daily Express article goes into great depth about the potential options open to the parents, e.g. making use of volunteer organizations or ‘neighborhood home management centers’ (街政中心). However, education and day care for the children of migrant workers is not a problem so easily solved, by the government or migrant workers themselves. The lack of a hukou (household registration) in cities means that the children of migrant workers cannot attend public schools or access public services. Efforts to find other solutions for the education of migrant workers that do not involve changing the hukou system are often stymied for other reasons; for example while the government in Beijing recently closed a string of schools catering for the kids of migrant workers due to a lack of permits.  An academic paper published in September also found that students who do attend such migrant schools fare much worse than students in public schools.

Links and sources
New Daily Express: 水泥工父母地盘开工 年幼子女锁在工地
Caixin: Beijing Closes Four Migrant Children Schools
Access to Public Schools and the Education of Migrant Children in China, IZA Discussion Paper Series No. 6853, September 2012

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