Tue, May 06, 2003 - Page 4 News List

Close bushibans, lawmaker urges

By Sandy Huang  /  STAFF REPORTER

A TSU legislator yesterday urged the Ministry of Education to demand that cram schools nationwide be closed down immediately to curb the spread of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS).

"In light of the nation's continuously rising number of SARS cases, the ministry should promptly order all cram schools to temporarily close for 10 days so they won't be a loophole in the government's anti-SARS effort," TSU Legislator Cheng Chen-lung (程振隆) said.

Noting that most cram schools have small classrooms crowded with students and central air-conditioning systems, Cheng said the epidemic could get out of control if a student who did not know he or she was infected with SARS attended class.

Cheng said there are an estimated 2,000 students under compulsory quarantine so far.

According to Cheng, there are total of 10,435 registered cram schools nationwide and about 20,000 others that are not legally registered.

"If we were to make a rough calculation of the number of students enrolled in cram schools nationwide, lets say each registered school has 150 students and each unregistered one has 80 students -- we are now talking about more than 3 million students going to cram schools every night, exposing themselves to possible contact with the SARS virus," Cheng said.

Noting that bushibans merely provide supplementary tutoring, Cheng said, "It is OK to have the schools close temporarily because the students would not be greatly affected."

Noting that only registered cram schools would be likely to comply with a temporary-closure advisory, Cheng said that a direct demand from the ministry is necessary to ensure that all such schools shut their doors for the prescribed period.

Cheng said that ministry officials have taken his suggestion under consideration and would make a decision today.

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