Sat, Nov 18, 2006 - Page 2 News List

Poll shows kids live in fear

By Max Hirsch  /  STAFF REPORTER

Seventy percent of elementary students nationwide are afraid of being abducted, with 54 percent fearing that they will accidentally plunge to their deaths from high-rise apartments.

Fear was the message yesterday from the Child Welfare League Foundation, a local non-profit organization (NPO) devoted to improving the nation's child welfare services.

With Children's Day, a UN holiday honoring youth, just two days away, the foundation released the results of a survey yesterday indicating that the majority of Taiwanese children feel unsafe at home and in school.

In addition to widespread fears among youth about falling prey to kidnappers or accidents in the home, the survey also indicated that 21 percent of children are regularly struck by their parents, with 19.3 percent often sustaining injuries at home.

The foundation polled 1,791 elementary students in 23 counties and cities for the survey, according to a foundation press release.

"When children walk out onto the street, they're afraid. We need to ask ourselves: What kind of environment are our kids growing up in?" said foundation spokeswoman "Hsiao-min" (小敏).

With six child panelists looking on, the foundation flipped through a PowerPoint presentation featuring newspaper headlines of incest, murder and suicide cases involving children at the start of the conference. Dark, forboding music from the film The Hours was played as reporters filed in.

Officials from the ministries of the interior and education were on hand to hold a scripted dialogue with the school-age panelists.

"National Policy Agency [NPA] Aunty, what can you do about the kidnapping problem involving children?" 11-year-old "Hsiao-huang" (小黃) read from an index card.

"Always be at least an arm's length away from strangers when they talk to you," NPA official Liu Chen-ju (劉貞汝) responded, adding that children could go to 7-Eleven stores and ask the clerks there for help whenever they felt unsafe on the streets.

Reading from a scrap of paper, "A-liang" (阿良) then asked Ministry of Education (MOE) official Huang Yueh-lee (黃月麗) what schools could do to cut down on students' travel time to and from school.

According to the foundation, 320,000 elementary students nationwide spend more than an hour commuting to their respective schools in the morning.

Flipping through a pile of notes, Huang recited her ministry's rules and regulations on the merging of schools, and told the 12-year-old that the ministry was concerned about the yawning wealth gap between the nation's rural and urban populations.

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