Hundreds march to save school
Parents and children converge on education headquarters to protest at admissions quota system
Three hundred parents and pupils marched from Admiralty to the education headquarters in Wan Chai yesterday to protest against a decision to stop their school from recruiting beginners this year.
The primary school in Tai Kok Tsui, near Mongkok, is one of the 31 ordered to start phasing out Primary One classes from September because their number of Primary One applicants fell below the minimum admission quota of 23 by last month's deadline. The schools are considering seeking a joint judicial review to overturn the government's decision.
Members of the Fresh Fish Traders' School's parent-teacher association handed a petition to a representative of the Education and Manpower Bureau urging the government to consider the needs of parents and children and allow the school to continue to operate.
'Many of the parents who took part in the march had just very recently pulled their children out of mainstream schools,' said Damien Lo Yuen-ho, association chairman and march organiser. 'Their children - who were considered as rubbish and a burden in their old schools - are now learning happily in the village school. Why does the government have to be so cruel in sending them back to mainstream schools?'
Leung Kee-cheong, the school's principal, said they had already received 17 applications for Primary One places. He was confident they would meet the admission quota by September if the government allowed them to continue admitting pupils.
'We have a curriculum tailored for newly arrived children from the mainland. We don't have an application deadline for them because their parents tend to apply all year round,' he said.
'I hope that Financial Secretary Henry Tang Ying-yen will not impose a drastic cut in education expenditure so that Permanent Secretary for Education and Manpower Fanny Law Fan Chiu-fun will have more flexibility in implementing cost-saving measures.'
The phase out of Primary One classes in the 31 schools will result in a loss of 160 classes. In addition, the bureau has ordered 13 schools - including 11 village schools - to shut outright in September.
Leung Yick-tin, principal of Chi Kit School in Mongkok and the spokesman of the 31 schools, said his group had been seeking legal advice and was considering applying for a joint judicial review to overturn the government's decision.
He said his group would follow closely two court cases where parents from two schools, in Tai Po and Sheung Shui, filed a High Court writ on Tuesday to demand the bureau let the schools to continue.
'The policy is very unfair to village schools because they don't have sufficient resources to compete for students with their counterparts run by large, powerful sponsoring bodies. As the population continues to drop drastically, I believe only half of the 700 primary schools will survive in a few years' time,' he said.
Meanwhile, the Alliance of Village School Parents, set up last year to protest against the admissions quota policy, said they would release their proposal on grouping village schools in Tuen Mun into a larger, centralised school next week in an attempt to find an established school sponsoring body to take over the pilot project.
Jade Kong Chun-yok, president of the alliance, said her group had submitted the proposal to the bureau in October. But the government rejected it last month, saying there were 'not enough students and financial resources', she said.
The bureau said it would respect any decision to seek a judicial review, but said allowing low enrolment schools to stay open was not cost-effective.