Music lessons complete primary education for migrant children

In China, the number of migrants - residents who move from the countryside into the large cities in search of work - is increasing. They are frequently forced to change jobs and generally live under the average standards of living. Their children are moving around with their parents and often lack basic care. For this reason they are called ‘moving around flowers’. At special governmental schools they receive compulsory education for free. One of these schools, the Matangcun primary school is located at just 5 kilometers away from Packaging Coatings in Songjiang. The school houses about 500 children in the ages from 6 to 15 years old, some of whose parents also work at the Songjiang site.

The students receive traditional education, including basic facilities like lunch, but there is no financial room for any additional schooling like the arts. Already two years ago, our colleagues from Packaging Coatings decided to do something about this situation as they thought it important that the children are also guided in a spiritual way. In close consultation with the teachers they developed a plan to introduce music lessons to the school. Guided by a professional teacher about 100 students from 2 different grades practice various music classes and our volunteering colleagues regularly are involved by communicating with the children and encouraging them and helped them organize a band. ‘We believe art is critical to the children’s development’, explained Maggie Shao, one of the initiators of the project. ‘These classes will benefit them a lot since their parents don’t pay any attention to artistic needs for children.’

After 2 years of studying in the music classes as well as rehearsing together, the band was ready to perform many songs. The quality of their music performance was such that last summer, before the holidays, they were selected from hundreds of migrant workers schools to give a performance for all Shanghai migrant worker school representatives. As preparations, like making costumes for the children and creating a backdrop at the stage, had to be made, an appeal was made for support from the Community Program, which was granted. Apart from the purchase of musical instruments, like a keyboard and various types of flutes, 20 volunteering employees helped make the costumes for the performance which was planned on the occasion of the celebration of International Children’s Day. During the rehearsals they videotaped the performance and gave the children some clues for improvement. As the selected song was a typical minority song, they helped with the design and production of the background for the stage in such a way, that it became a harmonious combination with the costumes.

Apart from being involved in the preparations for the music performance, our volunteering employees had also noticed that the school’s campus is small and plain, not even a plant existed. So they decided to bring some green color to the school. Seeds and pots were purchased and, together with the students, the seeds were planted. ‘Seeing them put the seeds in the earth and watering the little potting was very encouraging for us all’, explained Maggie. ‘We hope the students grow like the little seeds, work hard, and fully absorb sun, water and knowledge. Actually they are just the flowers of our country, they are young and energetic, although they cannot choose where they were born, they can choose to live a life of their own, a life needs knowledge, accomplishments, education, etc. We deeply wish that they not only planted the small seeds in the earth, but also build a seed of hope in their hearts and grow up healthy and happily.’

The music performance in Shanghai Minhang District, attended by 30 groups of children from migrant schools representing every district of Shanghai, was a great success. Beautiful music filled the lobby and the students from Matangcun Prima School in Songjiang even won second prize. Clearly the seeds, planted by our dedicated colleagues in Songjiang, have already started to grow successfully!