Building safety issue forces charity school to close

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A decade ago, in order to provide accommodation and education to disadvantaged children living in the Daliang Moutains area, social organizations partnered with the local government to help plan the establishment of a charity school in Meigu County, Sichuan Province, to help local children impacted by drugs, AIDS and poverty.

Completed in 2015, the school was seen as a symbol of people’s kindness and their expectations for a privately-supported public school to provide free accommodation and education to local children without parents.

With a total investment of 15 million yuan ($2.22 million), the “Minsheng Bank Red Ribbon Charity School” is a boarding school that can accommodate thousands of students. In September 2015, the first group of 900 children were enrolled. Without the school, many of the students would probably have had to drop out of education.

However, after operating for only three years, in 2018, the school received a notice from Meigu County Education Bureau urging it to stop enrolling students from September 2018.

The school was told its buildings failed to meet acceptable standards and that mandatory building safety certification had not been granted.

Despite many doubts and questions about the decision, the school suspended student enrollment in September 2018.

In an interview with China Philanthropist magazine, Zheng Jian, director of the Education and Sports Bureau of Meigu County, denied the claim that the school was about to close.

“Enrollment was suspended because the school buildings did not meet the safety standards and did not have the required paperwork,” he said. “It’s not that school buildings are absolutely unsafe, it’s just that there are no reports to prove their safety. (If) the buildings can be verified to prove that they are safe, the school can enroll students.”

Since the operation of the charity school involves multiple departments and organizations, Zheng said the relevant departments are currently negotiating with the Liangshan Development Center of Women and Children of the Yi Ethnic Group to solve this problem.