Image you are a primary school student just 2 years into formal schooling, you finish your lunch and feel like taking a nap at your desk after a whole morning of classes, but you cannot. Why? Because you need to first pay a nap fee to the school. This is what’s been happening in Jinwan District First Elementary School in Zhuhai, Guangdong province.
According to the parent who exposed the news, many of the school’s students spend lunch break on campus due to long distance from home. After lunch, they’d either do homework or take a nap at their desks. All is normal except that the school requires each student to pay a “lunch break fee” that costs RMB 1 yuan per day.
The school justified the charge by saying that the collection was approved by Guangdong Education Bureau. During lunch break, the school provides dorms for first-graders, who are charged RMB 2 yuan per day for their nap at noon. Beds are limited for second-graders and up so they can only nap at their desks, and that’s 1 yuan per student per day. School authorizes also implied hidden management cost – there is one supervising teacher per floor to take care of napping students during lunch break.
Chinese netizens reacted to the news furiously. Elementary school education is part of China’s 9-year compulsory education, which means it should be free. Though elementary education in China is anything but free, a nap fee still crosses a line here. Like netiizen 端木珈铭 commented: “There can be a million other ways for a school to charge students if this nap fee is legit.” Most netizens simply cursed and asked: “Why not charge a breathing fee?”
High cost of education has long been a major reason of discontent among the Chinese people. Education is one of the three mountains pushed down on everybody, as a saying goes (the other two are healthcare and housing). A lot of the education resources in China are tied with Hukou, the country’s residency registration system. For a kid without a local Hukou, education can sometimes be a luxury, unless if their parents are rich enough to pay for special admissions. But what makes even families with local Hukou suffocate are the so-called unauthorized fees collected by education institutions, fees that schools find excuses to charge besides tuition.
People’s Daily, official voice of the Chinese government, thought the nap fee was an perfect example of unauthorized fee: “Such lunch-break charges are a typical collection of unauthorized fees. But what’s worse, it’s an unauthorized fee collected under the disguise of “approved charge.” The approval itself is an insult to the compulsory education system.”