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Wealthy Chinese kindergarten provides serious security

Spate of violent crimes against kids heightens concerns over safety

A face and fingerprint recognition system restricts access to OTO International Kindergarten. (Photo by Daisuke Harashima)

DALIAN, China -- Every evening near an elementary school in this bustling port city, streets are packed with double-parked vehicles and people crowd the school gate.

They are the students' parents and grandparents, anxiously waiting to pick up their kids and whisk them home, an increasingly common scene these days near schools in China.

The families may seem overprotective, but a recent spate of violent crimes against children on their way between home and school -- including kidnapping -- justifies their concern.

In June, young sisters who went missing were later found dead.

To ease parents' worries over children's safety, Dalian's child care centers are bolstering security. For example, the recently opened OTO International Kindergarten has double doors that lead to the inside of the facility. Each door uses face and fingerprint recognition technology to restrict access. If not registered in advance, even relatives cannot enter.

Inside, more than 200 security cameras monitor activities, and a moat-like artificial river surrounds the facility to further block intruders. Surprisingly, there is even a police station within the grounds, with officers looking out for children when walking to and from school.

Exclusive enclave

Explaining why the kindergarten has so much security the vice president of the facility's operator Dalian Jiuzhou Construction Group, said many parents are "worried that their children could be victims of crimes such as kidnapping," noting that many of the students are from wealthy families.

The kindergarten is not only safe, it offers some added educational benefits. English lessons are taught by foreign instructors, and other foreign teachers on staff acquaint students with European and American culture. They can also practice ballet and obtain simple job experience.

About 70 children are currently enrolled in the facility."We have had a number of admission inquiries, including those from Japanese expats," said a facility official.

However, this kind of education comes at a hefty price. The monthly fee is 9,100 yuan ($1,344), roughly 18 times more than public kindergartens. This is equivalent to the average monthly household income in Dalian, so for normal families the facility is beyond their means.

Keeping kids safe is no easy task in this city, especially for those without wealth.

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