Planet China

A bitter pill

Children complaining about sore stomachs at breakfast might be trying to play truant. But what if they are telling the truth? And what if their school is responsible for their complaint?

That seems to be the case at a kindergarten in Xi’an after hundreds of parents discovered that their children had been fed anti-flu medication in secret. The police have since announced the arrest of the principal of the school, plus its resident doctor, after kids were given an anti-viral prescription drug without parental knowledge.

Parents say that the children have often complained about stomach pain, dizziness and itchy skin. But the causes only came to light at the beginning of March when one girl told her mother that she was taking pills in class “that mean we will never catch colds again”.

Local authorities have confirmed that side effects for the drug include sweating, loss of appetite and low blood sugar.

The general consensus in the media is that the drugs were administered to keep children coming to class. If a child was away sick, the kindergarten didn’t get paid. But the drug treatment made many of the kids ill, rather than fortifying them in the way that school bosses hoped.

One father also wondered if the school might have been part of some kind of drug trial. “If our children are ill or take sick leave, the kindergarten is often very nervous and calls to ask about their illness and their reaction,” he told Xinmin Weekly. “We had always thought it was very concerned about the children and we were very moved. But now it seems unusual.”

The same man was reduced to tears after admitting that he had spanked his son when he thought he was lying to him about his symptoms.

Shortly afterwards a sister school in Xi’an was exposed for giving the same drug to students, and there are reports that another kindergarten in Jilin province gave its children the same medicine.

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