The tragic suicide incident that recently occurred in Guizhou has brought society-wide attention to China’s 61 million left-behind children. Road to School (上学路上), a project led by a prominent journalist Liu Xinyu, last week launched its “White Paper on Chinese Left-behind Children’s Mental Condition” ( 留守儿童心灵白皮书) in Beijing. The White Paper took a year to complete and suggests that 15.1% of the left-behind children – around 10 million in total – are unable to meet their parents once a year, not even on family holidays such as the Lunar New Year. According to their research, if children cannot see their parents for over three months, their anxiety about living conditions will rise steeply. More worryingly, 2.6 million children haven’t received a single phone call from their parents for a year, and over 15 million of them only receive one phone call every three months. To tackle the situation, the White Paper suggests that all left-behind children should be able to have time to play and time to study for 1 to 2 hours a day. This should help to lower their anxiety levels. It also recommends that reading is the most efficient way to improve mental health, even more effective than watching TV or playing games.
Alongside their White Paper, Road to School also assembled a number of celebrities to get involved in helping left-behind children. They recorded stories and put them in MP3 players so that children can listen to those stories on their way to school. Through this project they successfully reached 100 schools and 50,000 children over the year. Liu Xinyu, the director of Road to School, hopes that over the next five years the project will expand to reach a total of 5 million children.