Chinese school bars windows and balconies to stop pupil suicides
An elite Chinese school has been criticised for turning classrooms into virtual jails by fitting windows and balconies with metal bars in an apparent attempt to stop students leaping to their deaths.
The Heshui No2 school is well known for its impressive results, but recently made headlines for tragic reasons. One student died in October and another in March; both apparently jumped from school buildings.
Photos of the school’s new protection measures for students prompted outrage on social media, with one retired education official saying the grilles made the high school in north China look like a prison camp.
China needs reforms “to keep these [exam] factories out of market”, a former education ministry spokesman, Wang Xuming, said in a post on the Weibo microblogging service.
China’s education system is fiercely competitive, with millions of students vying for slots at a handful of top universities, seen as a golden ticket to success and wealth. Entrance places are handed out based entirely on results in a nationwide entrance exam, and the pressure to succeed is intense.
Students at the Heshui No2 High School work from 5.30am until 10pm, with even toilet breaks regulated in pursuit of top marks, the state-owned Global Times reported.
The now barricaded inner courtyard is decked with banners urging the students not to waste a moment when they could be studying. “The tragedy of life is not losing but losing marginally,” reads one. “Success depends on the details of every class and each question,” reads another.
A member of staff from the school said they were considering decking out the new bars with spider plants to make them less forbidding. “Having these decorations could make it better,” the employee told the Beijing Times.
One online commentator, Peng, said: “School should be a place where people can learn freely rather than being locked up and forced to study. Would students commit suicide were the school regulations not being so strict? It’s shameless for them to say it’s all for students’ safety.”
Some parents were happy with the bars, however, and one person who claimed to have graduated from Heshui defended the school as one of the only ways for students from poorer areas to get ahead.
“I have been through this and yet I’m very grateful,” said one commentator on Weibo, who claimed to have attended the school. “In Hebei, though we are not stupid, it’s still pretty impressive if one student out of a thousand can be enrolled into a key university.”
Source: The Guardian