BEIJING – Many of China's elementary and middle school buildings are structurally unsound with as many as 20 percent in one province considered unsafe, according to a government official.
School safety has become a major concern in China and an extremely sensitive political issue following May's massive earthquake in Sichuan province that killed 70,000 people. Many students died when their poorly built schools collapsed.
About 2.5 percent of China's primary and middle school buildings have safety problems, Lu Yongxiang, a vice chairman of the National People's Congress Standing Committee, was quoted as saying in the official China Daily newspaper Friday.
Ministry of Education figures showed 20 percent of primary schools and 11 percent of middle schools in Yunnan, which borders Sichuan, "were not totally safe," the report said.
An earthquake measuring 4.9 hit Yunnan on Friday, injuring nine people and knocking down at least one old building, the official Xinhua News Agency said.
Earlier this week, a Sichuan court dismissed a lawsuit filed by parents of 58 children crushed to death when their school collapsed during the 7.9 magnitude quake in May.
While the government has promised an investigation and strict punishment for bad construction, there has been no public attempt so far to hold anyone to account.
Thousands of children are believed to have died in their classrooms during the quake but there is no official number.
The government says 70,000 people died in Sichuan province and 7,000 classrooms were destroyed, but has not released a detailed breakdown of the fatalities. Often schoolhouses were the only buildings in the area to fully collapse.
The school collapses in particular have become a sensitive political issue, with parents — many of whom lost their only child — staging protests demanding investigations.