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American Citrus Singers inspire migrant children


06-16-2016 01:40 BJT

Music and education unite! The "Citrus Singers" recently shared their love of music with migrant children at Beijing's Shuren School. The renowned American choir -- which hail from a college that specializes in cultivating young talent for the music industry -- held a special performance at the school before their official concerts in Hefei and Guangzhou.

For most of these migrant workers' children in the audience, this is their first time watching a Broadway musical. No costumes or props, but these young American Citrus Singers have managed to entertain and inspire with their voice.

"I love singing and dancing. I love their performance. I want to be a musical teacher," said a pupil named Zhang Yuxin.

"When I grow up, I hope that I could be able to produce a musical that can influence the future generation," said a pupil named Zhang Zhewen.

And the eager audience also impressed the future Broadway stars with their own show.

With nearly 700 students, Shuren School is one of the few privately-run primary schools catering to children of migrant workers from rural villages.

Founded by Zhao Shengjie in 1999, the school struggled to operate for 13 years without a government licence until 2013. At the most difficult times, pupils had to sit on the cold floor in winter to have classes, as the tables and chairs were taken away by the landlord when the school couldn't afford the rising cost of rent.

But the determination to provide migrant children with an equal opportunity for education has kept school founder Zhao Shengjie going.

"I was born in a typical Chinese farmers’ family in a poor remote village. I had to do farm work after I graduated from middle school, because my family couldn't afford to send all of the kids to school. 22 years ago, I came to Beijing to chase my dream to become a writer, and I later became a headmaster. It is education that has changed my life. So I’m determined to give migrant children from the rural areas a chance in life through education," Zhao said.

As China becomes increasingly urbanized, millions of labor forces in the rural areas have rushed into the cities. From construction workers to restaurants waiters, these migrant workers have taken on the less desirable jobs.

Yet, the country's 270 million migrant workers are all confronted with the same dilemma--of whether to leave their children behind to the care of grandparents or bring them to the city but where they're ineligilbe to register at the local public schools. This is the plight now facing 100 million or one in three chidlren in China.

"One of my area of focuses is to assess the educational needs of migrant chidlren in relation to those of the urban schoolers. Migrant chidlren and their parents often lack social resources. They rarely have the chance to experience art and culture which is important for their development. So we've been working on filling this gap through long-term charity art classes, free exhibitions and performances," Zhao said.

With a growing support from the government and the public, migrant children in Shuren School are well on their way to finding a voice as well as their place in the metropolis.

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