China: Millions of primary school-aged children in China to be tested after teachers found to have been feeding students antiviral drugs
By Malcolm Moore, Beijing
China has launched “blanket” drug testing for as many as 170 million children after it emerged that hundreds of kindergarten pupils were being secretly drugged by their teachers.
Over the past two weeks, three primary schools in two provinces were found to be secretly feeding their students a prescription drug to try to prevent them from getting sick.
The kindergartens are paid only for the days that pupils attend and wanted to maximise their earnings.
As parents across the country reacted furiously, the government promised a “thorough, one-by-one” inspection of every kindergarten, primary school and middle school in China.
“The focus is to investigate whether kindergartens are illegally organising the medication of groups of infants,” the government said, promising to report back by April 15 and severely punish any transgressors.
Two schools in the central city of Xi’an reportedly began feeding their pupils moroxydine hydrochloride, an antiviral drug that was invented in the 1950s to stop the spread of flu but fell out of favour in the West.
More than 500 parents in the city said their children had suffered headaches and pain as a result. On Monday, a third kindergarten in Jilin province was found to be secretly handing out the same drug.
Parents only discovered what was going on at the Feng Yun kindergarten in Xi’an when a child told his mother at the beginning of March that he would “never get sick again” because he had been “taking medicine”. When pressed, the boy said his teachers had given him a “bitter tablet that took a long time to swallow”.
As the news spread, crowds of parents besieged the kindergarten until its head, Zhao Baoying, admitted to the practice.
Parents said the drug, whose sideeffects have never been fully researched, had given their children headaches, muscle pains and night sweats.
Hundreds of children have now been tested in hospitals for any symptoms from the drug. At least 65 of over 390 children in Xi’an had “abnormal results” but doctors said they had not found any common theme that could be attributed to the drug.
As the outrage grew, parents began to block the streets outside the school and scuffle with police. The heads of the kindergartens have now been arrested and all the staff have been replaced.
Aware of the potential for a national outrage, the government has moved quickly to silence the parents of children in the three kindergartens.
“Three parents were detained for three days for gathering a crowd to make a disturbance,” said Liu Changsong, a lawyer at the Beijing Jierui law firm.
“Quite a few parents have been summoned for a talk with the police, and have deleted all online posts as instructed. The parents will go through the courts, but they are worried about being detained,” he added.
Tags: antiviral drugs, China, China teachers found giving children illegal drugs, China will drug test all school children, Chinese, kindergarten, kindergartens, middle school, primary school, primary school-aged children, primary schools