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The Uncertain Future of a Migrant School in Beijing

As Beijing aims to cap population growth, it must contend with its outlying villages that are home to migrant workers who provide the city’s cheap labor.
A member of the security personnel stands on duty on an empty train platform inside a station on the Subway Line Number 1 in Beijing, China.
A member of the security personnel stands on duty on an empty train platform inside a station on the Subway Line Number 1 in Beijing, China.Jason Lee/Reuters

On a typical weekday, Sun Ning walks to work, arriving at around 7:30 a.m. Sun is a zhuren—a teacher and an administrator akin to a vice-principal—at Nanqijia Village Experimental School, a private K-nine school for the children of migrant workers in a northern district of China’s capital city, Beijing. Sun, from rural Henan province about 400 miles to the south of Beijing, has been with the school from its start in 2005.

Nanqijia School is named for the urban village where it is situated. Like many other villages on the outskirts of the city, Nanqijia Village was once an outlying settlement. It was absorbed as Beijing expanded. On the periphery of the city and with unglamorous suburban origins, these urban villages are often home to large populations of migrants. Beijing has plans to rezone parts of some urban villages in order to take the land for a subway expansion, and raze others in an effort to encourage occupants to move elsewhere, lessening the strain on the city’s infrastructure. Thus, the future of the village and school is uncertain.