Learning to Die

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Authorities search the schoolhouse rubble after the blast.

Zhang Weifang used to study the three Rs: reading, 'riting and rigging gunpowder canisters with flash fuses. Sitting at their desks in the Fanglin village school, she and her classmates each made 20 firecrackers per day that her teachers sold to middlemen who sold them to factories. "Sometimes the teachers beat us with a wooden plank," Zhang says. "Making fireworks is hard." It's also hazardous, especially when the workers are children who shouldn't be playing with fireworks, much less manufacturing them. Last week an explosion ripped apart Zhang's school in Jiangxi province, killing more than 40 students and teachers and shedding...