Vis­its home are to a place un­known

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - NATION - By WU NI in Shang­hai wuni@chi­nadaily.com.cn

Hao Tong was brought to Shang­hai by her mi­grant worker par­ents one month af­ter she was born. For the 11-year-old girl, the place where she was born is some­where she vis­its once a year dur­ing the Spring Fes­ti­val.

Even when she is there, she can­not un­der­stand what her cousins are talk­ing about, as she does not speak the lo­cal di­alect.

“My mother tried to teach me to speak the di­alect but I just couldn’t man­age it,” she said. “Peo­ple in my home­town are very nice, but they throw lit­ter about. I do not like that.”

Many chil­dren of mi­grant work­ers who grow up in the city don’t have an emo­tional con­nec­tion with the place where they were born. To make them un­der­stand more about ru­ral life and com­mu­ni­cate with their peers in the coun­try­side, the Shang­hai Ji­uqian Vol­un­teer Cen­ter, a non­profit or­ga­ni­za­tion that pro­vides free ex­tracur­ric­u­lar ed­u­ca­tion for the chil­dren of mi­grant work­ers, has or­ga­nized vis­its to the chil­dren’s home­towns dur­ing sum­mer va­ca­tions since 2007.

From July 28 to Aug 7, 30 mi­grant chil­dren aged from 11 to 17 trav­eled to four vil­lages in Hongze county and Peix­ian county in Jiangsu, and Tengzhou city and Pingyi county in Shan­dong, said Yao Yuan, a vol­un­teer in Ji­uqian who led the tour.

They stayed in a lo­cal pri­mary school when they vis­ited Hao’s home vil­lage, and played games with the lo­cal chil­dren.

“The ru­ral chil­dren are shy. But when we played to­gether for some time, they be­came lively,” Hao said.

The vis­it­ing chil­dren are sup­posed to try to make friends with one of the chil­dren they meet. It was a girl in Nan­tang vil­lage in Tengzhou that im­pressed Hao most.

“I felt she was lonely,” she said. “Her fa­ther was a con­struc­tion worker and worked away from home. The vil­lage is al­most empty and there are very few chil­dren.

“We went to buy veg­eta­bles to­gether and made a meal to­gether. She showed me the chilies she planted. When we left the vil­lage, she cried.”

The ru­ral left-be­hind chil­dren made Hao feel she is lucky to live with her par­ents. Hao’s fa­ther worked in the con­struc­tion site when he first came to Shang­hai. Then, when he has saved enough money, he started a print­ing fac­tory. Her mother looks af­ter Hao’s lit­tle brother, who was born in Shang­hai.

Hao is study­ing at the pub­lic Changzheng Pri­mary School in Pu­tuo dis­trict. The cheer­ful and con­fi­dent girl looks no dif­fer­ent from her class­mates.

How­ever, with­out a Shang­hai hukou, a per­ma­nent res­i­dence per­mit, mi­grant stu­dents such as Hao are not clas­si­fied as Shang­hai res­i­dents, which means they have to go back to their home­town to at­tend high school and take the col­lege en­trance ex­am­i­na­tion.

But it is too early for Hao to worry about the fu­ture. “I have not thought about this,” she ad­mit­ted.

The home­town tours for mi­grant chil­dren are of­ten de­fined as a trip to find their roots, but Zhang Yichao, the founder of Ji­uqian, in­sists that the pur­pose of the event is to en­hance their com­mu­ni­ca­tion with ru­ral chil­dren.

PRO­VIDED TO CHINA DAILY

A stu­dent (left), who took part in the Shang­hai Ji­uqian Vol­un­teer Cen­ter’s visit to her home­town, has fun with a ru­ral stu­dent in Peix­ian county, Jiangsu prov­ince.

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