Pupils shut out of school by red tape

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 29 August, 2000, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 29 August, 2000, 12:00am

New classrooms at a Kowloon Tong primary school will be empty for the start of the term on Friday because of a bureaucratic wrangle.

Officials at St Johannes College say they are still waiting for registration approval for a new campus. They blame education authorities for the delay which looks certain to force them to cram students into classrooms at their established campuses in Boundary Street and Waterloo Road. The two campuses already cater to 1,000 pupils.

College principal Barbara Chung Kwai-ying said the private school had hired three lawyers, including two senior counsels, to help with the application for registration of 20 classrooms at a new campus in Flint Road.

The Education Department had not formally approved or rejected the registration bid, she said. The delay means buildings at the new campus will remain vacant until approval is granted.

'After examining all of our correspondence [between the school and relevant departments such as Education Department], our lawyers told us they are confident we will get the registration. They feel the Government has been mistaken in handling this case,' Ms Chung said.

She said the school had begun registration procedures in April, applying for certificates from the Fire Services Department and Buildings Department. It has a certificate from the Buildings Department but has not met the requirements of Fire Services.

'It is so unfair to us. We got a certificate from the Buildings Department which did not say we had an unlawful structure on the premises,' she said. 'But the Fire Services Department refused to grant us a full certificate because it said we have unauthorised structures. I don't know why the government departments work in different directions.

'Before acquiring the new campus, we checked the background and records of the premises. It was free from any problems.'

A spokesman for the Education Department said the school had not supplied full details in its application and lacked supporting certificates.

'The school has a responsibility to newly enrolled students. They cannot recruit the students before being granted registration,' the spokesman said. 'We have reminded them to take a contingency plan if they fail to get the registration. If they have a serious problem in arranging students to attend other schools, the department will give them assistance.'

Established in 1962, the school originally offered education to secondary level. But it reduced services to primary and kindergarten classes 20 years ago.