CHINA - China is inspecting all kindergartens, primary and middle schools to see if the students are being given prescription drugs by staff.
The order comes after kindergartens in China's Shaanxi and Jilin provinces were found to have fed pupils prescription drugs without the parents' knowledge, Hong Kong newspaper South China Morning Post reported. About 170 million children will be tested.
The pupils were apparently given drugs because the schools are paid for each day the children attend class.
It has been alleged that the medication was given to ensure the children do not skip class, the report said.
Two kindergartens in the central city of Xi'an, capital of Shaanxi province, reportedly began giving their pupils moroxydine hydrochloride, an antiviral drug that was invented in the 1950s to stop the spread of flu and which fell out of favour in the west, UK daily The Telegraph reported.
More than 500 parents in the city said their children had headaches and pain as a result.
Parents discovered what was going on at the Feng Yun kindergarten in Xi'an when a child told his mother at the beginning of this month 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 word spread, crowds of parents besieged the kindergarten until its head Zhao Baoying admitted to the practice.
Parents said the drug, whose side-effects have not been fully researched, had given their children headaches, muscle pains and night sweats. Hundreds of children have been tested in hospitals for any symptoms from the drug.
On Monday, it was found that a third kindergarten in Jilin province was also handing out the same drug secretly.
A government notice said: "The focus is to investigate whether kindergartens are illegally organising the medication of groups of infants."
It added that school workers found to have broken regulations would be dealt with severely and the results of the checks should be submitted by April 15.
Get The New Paper for more stories.