Zhongbo Community had many attractions for potential buyers. After all, this Chongqing apartment complex featured floor-to-ceiling windows and a swimming pool. But for Li Lin the real draw was a place for his son at the nearby primary school.
Four years ago, Li stumbled upon an advert for Zhongbo Community which claimed that the children of homeowners were guaranteed a place at the highly regarded Experimental Primary School. The property developer assured him the deal had been approved by the local government, and that places were so scarce that admission was hard even for the children of the well-connected. Impressed, Li took out all his savings and bought.
But when he tried to register his son for school last month, he was shocked to find that there were no places available, reported the Chongqing Evening News.
Aside from Li, 86 other families had the same problem. And though the school eventually agreed to accept their children – under pressure from the developer – parents now had to worry about the safety of their children in the overcrowded premises.
“Can’t take no more, truly no more,” was the succinct response from Mr Fang, principal at the Experimental Primary School. “The school was designed for 1,500 students, but now we have 5,315 already with 10 classes in each grade and 66-87 pupils in each class. The standard number of pupils in a class should be 45, we break that standard in every class.” The average class size in OECD countries is 21.5.
With so many desks and chairs in each classroom, there’s hardly any space left for students to move. 10-year-old Lie Yunchuan, who sits by the door, says his 65kg body barely fits into his seat. If he pushes his desk any further forward he blocks the door.
During morning exercise, thousands of students are jammed into the playground, and some even spill into the corridors.
The overcrowding is so serious, it’s keeping Mr Lei, who’s in charge of school safety, up at night. He told the newspaper he’d been considering early retirement, since he often stayed up late worrying about the students.
To avoid accidents, Lei dismisses the students in three batches each afternoon, and has 169 teachers posted at different locations to help manage the traffic flow during “rush hour” as the kids head home.
And the Experimental Primary School is not alone in suffering from overcrowding in the district. There are two other schools also struggling to accommodate a wave of prospective students, thanks to promises made by the developers of new housing projects. Fang has urged the local government.
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