Students in China held their school principal hostage in a unique protest. According to the reports, Chinese students have been extremely worried about their degrees getting devalued. They were protesting due to the Government’s plan to merge the Jiangsu campus of Nanjing college with a vocational institute. Students usually see vocational institutes as less prestigious than independent colleges.
Therefore, the undergraduates of Nanjing Normal University Zhongbei College gathered to protest on 5th June and carried onwards. They held the 55-year-old principal hostage for more than 30 hours to get attention on their demands. Reportedly, there was also violence that resulted in injured students.
Chinese Students Clashing with Law Enforcement
According to the reports, Chinese police said that the students were shouting verbal abuse at law enforcement and also blocked their way. They refused to release the principal until Chinese authorities suspended their plans of merging the institutions. Reportedly, there are 5 more independent colleges to be merged with vocational schools.
The videos of violence between students and Chinese forces kept appearing on social media on daily basis. The police were charging on students with batons and pepper spray which injured some of the students.
Reportedly, a female undergraduate was bleeding from the head and police statement stated that injured people were immediately moved to hospital. Reports also said that there was a hashtag viral on Weibo called “Nanjing Normal University Zhongbei College Students Injured by Violent Law Enforcement”, which later got blocked. Meanwhile, videos on Twitter kept showing police in a violent fashion against students.
It can be seen in some of the videos that the law enforcement was chasing after the students and dragging them down forcefully.
Merger Plans Suspended till Further Notice
According to the reports, all six colleges have decided to suspend the merger plans, which were first announced in March. The Jiangsu Education Department said that this merger is due to compliance with the directives from The Ministry of Education. The Chinese government wants to transform independent colleges into vocational schools.
In recent days, this decision from the Government has led to similar protests in 4 other independent schools. Reportedly, there were some events of physical confrontation over there as well.
Why Students are Worried?
Nanjing Normal University Zhongbei College was founded in 1999. It was the very first independent college approved by China’s Education Ministry. Independent colleges are co-funded by individuals, universities, and/or social organizations. Students who cannot meet the merit of mainstream universities can enter these institutions and still graduate with a university degree at a higher cost.
Degrees from Independent colleges are considered higher in value than vocational degrees because students believe these degrees would get them better job opportunities. On the other hand, vocational institutes historically aimed to address the shortage of skilled labor in China. However, after 1996, the introduction of Vocational Education Law expanded its quality but the shortage of trainers was always there. The problem persisted throughout history as there were not enough trainers to teach vocational skills to Chinese students.
According to the reports, it is projected that China is going to have a record 9 million university graduates this year.