Protesters to rally against shutdown of schools

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 23 March, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 23 March, 2004, 12:00am

Teachers, students and parents to join yellow-ribbon march on Saturday

More than 1,000 teachers, students and parents will march to the government headquarters in Central with yellow ribbons on their arms on Saturday to petition against the closure of under-enrolled primary schools.

The protest is part of the joint campaign staged by the Professional Teachers' Union, the Subsidised Primary Schools' Council and a coalition of more than 20 primary schools. Eighty-one schools have been ordered to stop recruiting Primary One classes.

All primary and secondary schools have been allocated yellow ribbon stickers. Teachers, students and parents have been invited to wear the stickers on Friday to express their solidarity.

More than 10 primary schools belonging to the coalition will also host 'sharing sessions' for teachers, students and parents on Friday, according to PTU president Cheung Man-kwong.

'It's unfair and unreasonable to judge a school based on its number of student admissions in one year,' said Mr Cheung.

'We want to reveal the rigid and ridiculous education policy to the public. If the [Education and Manpower Bureau] continues its arbitrary shutting down of schools, eventually more than half of the primary and secondary schools will have to shut by 2010 because of the falling birth rate.'

Subsidised Primary Schools Council vice-chairman Lam Seung-wan said the council was worried more schools would be forced to shut.

Leung Yik-tin, a spokesman of the coalition of the affected schools, said the bureau was making use of the requirements to eliminate small schools.

The bureau tightened the criteria for operating Primary One classes from the start of the 2003-04 school year, forbidding any school to operate classes if the total number of Primary One students allocated to the school was less than 23.

'The EMB intends to shut down schools which are backed up by small sponsoring bodies because they are always small in size and student numbers,' said Mr Leung.

One of the school principals said some schools were allowed to continue Primary One classes even though they had recruited fewer than 23 students. 'The new schools are often spared, while old schools are shut down,' he said. 'It is blatant favouritism.'

A bureau spokesman admitted it had not ordered all primary schools which failed to admit at least 23 Primary One students to stop operating Primary One classes, to ensure sufficient school places within the system. 'The EMB will select schools on the basis of the results in the central school place allocation exercise. Schools which are less popular will be shut down,' he said.