Govt, society share onus to protect left-behind kids

Updated: 2016-01-29 07:45

(China Daily)

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Govt, society share onus to protect left-behind kids

Qin Xiaohui (R) plays with the other children in his village on July 5, 2012. Qin Xiaohui, then 6, lives in Banlie Village of Bansheng Township in Dahua Yao Autonomous County, South China's Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region. [Photo/Xinhua]

Premier Li Keqiang's latest call for the government and society to strengthen protection and care for "left-behind" children in rural areas underlines the severity and urgency of the issue.

The call, made at a State Council executive meeting on Wednesday, follows repeated media reports of tragedies involving the country's some 60 million children left behind by their parents working as migrant workers in cities.

Often left without proper parental and societal care, many of such children fall victims to anxieties, anger, accidents and even sexual assaults. Some are involved in anti-social behavior or commit crimes.

It would be immoral if the country does not address the problem.

The issue of left-behind children emerged during the country's modernization process, in which hundreds of millions of farmers flooded into cities in pursuit of a better life.

Yet due to the rigid household registration system and high costs of living and education in cities, it is unaffordable and impractical for many migrants to bring their children with them. They have to entrust the younger generation's education and care to the elderly, who often find the task too demanding.

Urbanization has fueled economic growth over the years but cast a lasting shadow on traditional rural lifestyle, values and customs, aggravating the problems faced by those left behind.

Migrant workers' hard work and cheap labor were major factors behind China's economic miracle over the past decades. The country owes these workers a huge debt, which must be paid back. The prosperity of cities should not be built at the expense of migrant workers' family reunions and happiness.

The issue of left-behind kids is unique to China, and there are few, if any, experiences that the country can draw on in its quest for a solution.

It is encouraging, therefore, that the premier has pointed out practical ways to improve the situation for left-behind children, such as making cities more accommodative to migrants, supporting the efforts of social workers and charity organizations, and building more boarding schools. He also stressed the role that grassroots governments, local communities and schools can play in the children's security, supervision and education.

The premier's pledge to tackle this problem head on marks a top-level push to efforts to lift this very weak and vulnerable social group out of despair. The way they are treated reflects how civilized we want our society to be.

It will be a stain on our collective conscience if we fail to help them out.