Education ministry vows enhanced school building safety

BEIJING, Nov. 13 — Noting dated buildings still in use and new damage from natural disasters, China’s Ministry of Education has vowed to step up reinforcement of primary and middle school buildings as a “long-term and arduous” mission.
The ministry’s announcements, carried in a Wednesday statement, echoed a Tuesday State Council circular that urged a building safety procedure for primary and middle schools that would encompass annual checks, emergency warnings, building information disclosure and risk-averse management.
According to the circular, local government chiefs will be held responsible for any casualties caused by unsafe structures, and the fund to construct and repair rural school buildings should be jointly secured by local and central governments.
Figures from the Wednesday statement show that some 375,000 schools across the country with 2.17 million buildings have undergone safety checks since a safety project was launched in 2009. The project also saw 140,000 schools reinforced.
According to the ministry, school buildings covered in the project have endured 32 earthquakes measured at magnitude 5 or above since last year, and many even served as temporary shelters and warehouses for relief materials.
However, the statement noted that some old school buildings that are incompatible with current standards are still in use, and “given the enormous scale of our country’s primary and middle schools and their weak foundations, a thorough regulation is urgently needed.”
“During the construction of school buildings, government principals and key officials supervising various stages must sign a safety paper, and they will be held responsible in case of building quality issues even if they have retired,” the ministry said in the statement.
According to the document, county governments should collect basic information about every school and its buildings within their jurisdictions, and submit the records to provincial-level governments for public release.
The statement urged local governments to step up repairs, reinforcement, reconstruction and expansion until all schools meet national standards.[db:内容2]

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