When news of the crash was relayed in the media, the incident provoked widespread anger. The small 9-seater bus had been converted for use by the nursery school, which is located in a rural area near the city of Qingyang. The vehicle was massively overloaded, carrying 62 children at the time of the accident. All of the 43 surviving children, aged between 3 and 5, sustained injuries. The two adults who died were the driver and a teacher.
Chinese authorities have now arrested the owner of the nursery school. He is charged with being responsible for the accident’s casualties because the seats of the bus had been removed to allow for more passengers. The Xinhua news agency reported that the nursery school had over 700 pupils, but only 4 vans. All had their seats removed. According to the Chinese prosecutor, the school’s owner could face imprisonment of up to 7 years.
This week, it was announced that following the closure of the private nursery, a public school will be opened on its site. And the new school will receive a 45-seater bus as a donation from an oil company. The parents of the dead children will also receive 436,000 yuan (68,530 dollars) in “compensation and consolation” for their loss.
The Guardian’s report on the accident acknowledges that spending on education by the central government of China has increased steadily in recent years. However, the article highlights the huge gaps between services in rural and city areas. With the closure of many rural schools, experts suggest that overcrowding on school transport has become more common as children are forced to travel distances to class. Many of the children who died in last week’s bus crash were from farming families.
In response to the disaster, the Qingyang city authorities have promised to build 200 public nurseries across the region over the next 3 years. This will be done at a cost of around 107 million dollars. Extra funding will also go to improving existing pre-school facilities.
The authorities will hope that such a programme will go some way to appeasing local anger, which has been expressed on internet blog sites, a popular way for Chinese citizens to air their views. According to a report by the BBC, one posting simply read “how could they put over 60 kids into a bus that is restricted to just nine people?” From such postings, it is clear many blame the country’s lax safety standards for the deaths of the children. The Chinese government has responded by ordering checks to be carried out on all school buses.