Boot camp for ‘lit­tle em­per­ors’

Over­pro­tected chi­nese chil­dren toughen up dur­ing their sum­mer hol­i­days.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - LIVING -

THE youth mil­i­tary sum­mer camp in the out­skirts of Bei­jing, China, first opened in 2008, with only a hand­ful of stu­dents. Five years later, the camp caters to over 2,000 chil­dren a year over a two-month pe­riod.

The camp is run mainly by for­mer mil­i­tary, po­lice and fire fight­ers, look­ing af­ter chil­dren rang­ing from six to 17 years old, with 70% be­ing boys and 30% girls. The pro­grammes last be­tween seven and 28 days and en­rol­ment costs are from 2,580 to 9,280 yuan (RM1,368 to RM4,920).

The camp’s av­er­age child is what is known as “the lit­tle em­peror”, an over­pro­tected kid, prod­uct of the one-child pol­icy who most likely does not know how to make his or her own bed. The vast ma­jor­ity of the par­ents en­rolling their chil­dren for the one- to four-week pro­gramme do so not just as an al­ter­na­tive way for chil­dren to spend their sum­mer va­ca­tions, but be­cause they hope that a taste of army life and strict dis­ci­pline will strengthen their char­ac­ter, teach them to do things for them­selves, be less de­pen­dent on their par­ents or grand­par­ents, and maybe even make them braver.

An av­er­age day at the camp starts be­fore 7am, when the chil­dren must all brush their teeth, make their beds, air out their tents by open­ing up the win­dows and get them­selves into their uni­forms ready for the day’s tasks. De­pend­ing on the pro­gramme they are on, some will learn how to do their laun­dry, sit still at at­ten­tion, march, go on treks, do the ob­sta­cle course, learn self-de­fence and sur­vival skills, or be in the kitchen learn­ing how to make dumplings.

Those stu­dents en­rolled in the longer pro­grammes will at some point learn how to han­dle weapons, wear cam­ou­flage paint on their faces, and even go to the fir­ing range to shoot air ri­fles.

About a third of the stu­dents re­turn to the camp the fol­low­ing year.

I’m so tyre-d: Part of the ob­sta­cle course at a youth sum­mer camp in china run mainly by for­mer mil­i­tary, po­lice and fire fight­ers. — ePa

One of the sum­mer camp young­sters ex­am­in­ing his un­der­wear while do­ing his laun­dry.

a young boy sit­ting on his bed wait­ing to be picked up on his last day of sum­mer boot camp.

a young boy yawn­ing dur­ing early morn­ing self-de­fence train­ing at the boot camp.

young chil­dren peer­ing through sight win­dows of pro­tec­tive shields.

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