It is wrong to condemn children to bad schools. But it is dastardly to teach them in unsafe, shoddily-constructed buildings. The Chinese authorities are, it seems, quite guilty of the latter offense. Of the 61,000 people whose lives were ended by the recent earthquakes in Sichuan Province, over 10,000 were children crushed while attending class. The four-story Xinjian Primary School, for example, was completely destroyed; hundreds of students perished when the building's walls toppled. The New York Times showed photographs of Xinjian's wreckage to six engineering and earthquake experts, each of whom independently concluded that the school's columns had inadequate steel reinforcements and that its walls and floors "did not appear to be securely joined together." Meanwhile, neighboring buildings, properly constructed, survived the quake. Corruption and lax enforcement of codes are to blame. China has done much for which it should be ashamed. Add the brazen neglect of schoolchildren to the list. Open the Olympics with a view of thousands of small coffins as well as pictures of tortured Tibetans.
"Chinese Are Left to Ask Why Schools Crumbled," by Jim Yardley, New York Times, May 25, 2008