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Travel to school gives lessons in grief

01-05-2012 08:54 BJT

FENGXIAN, Jiangsu - Six days after a school bus accident last month killed 15 children in Fengxian county, the body of 10-year-old Zhao Xuanxuan was laid to rest by sobbing family members.

According to custom in the small village of Shilizhuang, a child his age is not given a grand burial ceremony. Nor will there be a tombstone.

About 60 meters away and one hour earlier, 12-year-old Wang Lulu was buried. The grave of 7-year-old Zhang Yixin stands about 300 meters west.

Almost overnight, the village of a few thousand had 12 new graves, all for primary school children who died when their bus rolled into a ditch to prevent a crash. The three other children came from other villages.

The accident on Dec 12 in East China followed one on Nov 16 in the Northwest's Gansu province that killed 19 children. In a storm of tracing responsibility for the Fengxian crash, four officials were dismissed from their positions on Dec 18.

Those accidents and others since, which killed at least nine pupils in the Southwest's Yunnan province, raised alarms about the safety of children transported to and from school - whether by bus, van or even horse carts that are registered or used to deliver students.

Heated public discussion also has focused on a national program, initiated in 2001, to close village schools and shift students to bigger institutions in townships. That consolidation, intended to better use national education resources, also requires that students travel longer distances between home and school.

A regulation was drafted last month that would be the nation's first on school bus safety. Among other provisions, it would give school buses the right of way and set up standards for bus design and production. The draft is open for public comment until Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Liu Yandong, a State councilor, said at a conference in Beijing on Dec 24 that it would cost 460 billion yuan ($73 billion) to buy and maintain the 1.5 million buses that would be needed if all primary and middle schools were equipped with school vehicles.

Such a huge investment is hard to put in place in one shot, she said.

 

Editor:Wang Xi |Source: China Daily

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