A photo showing a little girl carrying her baby brother in the classroom created a stir online in China last month. It reflects the long-standing social problem of children left behind in rural villages by their parents.
The discussion has been harmonized on online platforms and the key term “Little brother wants to sleep” (弟弟要睡了) has been filtered away and become unsearchable in major online platforms such as Sina, Baidu and Sohu since November 7, 2011, as the discussion has become more and more political. It has been estimated that there are about 58 million “left behind children” in China.
Little brother wants to sleep
The name of the 10-year-old girl in the photo [zh] is Long Zhanghuang, her two-year-old bother is Zhang Junjie. Their parent are rural migrant workers working in the city and the siblings are living with their grandparent. The class room is located in a village in Fenghuang county, Hunan province.
Blogger Shichengke explains [zh] the social and political context of the photo:
Media commentator Yanlong elaborates [zh] on the need for social welfare reform:
The issue as stake is of course not about the right to sleep. Our welfare system has not reached the grassroots of society. Children's welfare has become mere talk, in particular in poor villages. The benefits that children enjoy depend totally on family income. Even though degeneration has not taken place in the villages, parents still don't have time to take care of their children; similar sad stories [to the photo] are unavoidable.
The grandparents of the little girl are also deprived of their rights to enjoy their retired lives. Different from their urban counterparts, the elderly in the villages do not have a retirement age because of the lack of social welfare protection. They have to keep on cultivating their land at a very old age. “The children have no one to depend upon while the elderly have no one to be fed by” – that is the sad message delivered by the photo.
58 million ‘left behind children’
To follow up on the story, QQ news sent a video team to the village and produced a very touching documentary report [zh] (with English subtitles).
The video documentary has attracted more than 5,200 comments. Below is a selected translation of the popular ones:
Reporter Fu Jianfeng highlights [zh] a quote in the video made by the teacher about an episode in the classroom: