2020-09-29 09:52:30

A court in central China’s Henan province has sentenced a kindergarten teacher to death after she poisoned a class of students.

The teacher, Wang Yun, was found guilty of poisoning the morning meal of a class of second grade students, killing one and sickening two dozen others, the Jiaozuo Intermediate People’s Court announced Monday. The notice said Wang received the death penalty for the crimes of administering a poisonous substance and causing intentional injury.

In March 2019, Wang was criminally detained after a preliminary police investigation found that she had intentionally added potentially lethal sodium nitrite to the children’s porridge at the Mengmeng Kindergarten in Jiaozuo. Police said Wang had wanted to frame the second grade teacher for the crime as an act of revenge. Previously, Wang had added the same substance to her husband’s drink, causing minor injury.

Sodium nitrite is an inorganic salt that is commonly used as a food preservative. Though also an antidote to cyanide poisoning, it is acutely toxic — especially to feral hogs and wild boar, whose populations it is sometimes used to control.

In recent years, there have been several high-profile cases in China of child abuse and molestation by kindergarten teachers, which experts attribute to a low entry barrier for preschool teachers exacerbated by high demand. The country is expected to have 15 million more kindergarten students by 2021, which would cause a shortage of more than 3 million preschool teachers and child care workers.

Last year, financial outlet Caixin found that Mengmeng Kindergarten was an unlicensed facility and did not meet the requirements China’s education authority sets for kindergartens. Wang, the convicted, did not even have a teaching qualification.

As of 2019, China had 2.7 million full-time kindergarten teachers, and only around one-quarter of them had a bachelor’s degree or higher, according to the Ministry of Education. Meanwhile, 16% had only a high school diploma, while the majority — 58% — graduated from vocational colleges.

In 2017, several city and provincial authorities across China announced plans to prevent abuses at kindergartens. They included reviewing teachers’ qualifications, unannounced inspections, and installing surveillance cameras. However, such policies have not managed to entirely stamp out child abuse at domestic schools.

On Monday, eight parents in Hohhot, a city in China’s northern Inner Mongolia region, said they found needle marks on their kindergarten-age kids’ bodies — claims that bear striking similarity to a 2017 kindergarten abuse case in Beijing. Hohhot police have said they are looking into potential misconduct.

Editor: Bibek Bhandari.

(Header image: People Visual)