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Chinese High-School Installs Metal Bars on Balconies to Prevent Suicides

A high school in China was recently in the news for bearing a striking resemblance to a correctional facility. When questioned, the school authorities revealed that they were forced to install ‘anti-suicide iron barriers’, after two students jumped to their deaths in the past six months.

The authorities at Hengshui No. 2 High School also insisted that although they installed the barriers “out of safety concerns,” they also added a few plants to lighten up the mood. “The pot plants are supposed to make the building feel less bleak,” a teacher explained.

While the move might indicate the authorities’ concern towards students, the question remains as to why students would choose to end their lives at school. It turns out several schools in Hengshui City, where the school is located, are notorious for their harsh and exacting approach towards education. Apparently, these schools expect students to work hard all day long, with the sole purpose succeeding at the ‘gaokao’ college entrance exam.

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Hengshui High School falls under this brand of China’s ‘Super high schools’, and is in fact considered to be one of the best schools in the nation, with a consistently high rate of success at the gaokao. The school alone produces 80 percent of the region’s students who go on to study at the prestigious Peking University. However, the success seems to have come at the cost of the nervous meltdown of several students who are unable to keep up with the fierce competition.

Indeed, many of the school’s methods military-style teaching methods have come under fire by child welfare experts.  Being late to class is severely punished, strict dress codes are enforced, and students are expected to do little else but study. “Don’t fall behind, don’t get sick, don’t contradict your elders, don’t get in a bad mood, don’t slow down, don’t laugh, don’t talk with classmates too much, don’t daydream, don’t chew your pencil, don’t go to the bathroom often, don’t, oh so many don’ts,” an old student of Hengshui High recalled.

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Chen, another student at Hengshui No. 2 High School said that they are required to wake up at 5:30 in the morning and go to sleep by 10:10 at night, with 12 classes in between. “During nap time, we are only allowed to lie in bed and  forbidden to go to bathroom,” he added. The school’s military-style rules also state that all meals must be finished within 15 minutes and toilet breaks are less than three minutes.

Many students are unable to perform under such exacting conditions, and succumb under the tremendous pressure. With just weeks to go until the dreaded gaokao exam, the cage-like barriers are the only way for the school to protect its overworked students.  According to one student, many of the school’s buildings are partially guarded, but the one for students preparing for the gaokao is fully guarded. “I think it’s understandable; the school is doing it for our safety,” another student said.

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Social media users, however,  have lashed out at the school’s move. Pictures of the school’s balconies appeared on Weibo last week, and were met with severe criticism.

“This is a school, but in order to stop students from taking their lives, it has made itself look like a prison,” a commenter wrote.

“Maybe the school should consider a policy of more love and care?” another pointed out.

Many agreed: “Instead of installing metal bars, why doesn’t the school provide psychological counseling and guidance? That may help!”

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Earlier this year, we also wrote about Mao Tan Chang High School , another intense educational institution that uses extreme measures and army-style tactics to train its students for the gaokao.

Sources: Global Times, Xinhuanet, GB Times