PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 27 July, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 27 July, 2004, 12:00am

Q Are students' complaints against teachers taken seriously enough?

As a mother of three I read with interest and amazement the articles regarding teachers using verbal discipline and the case of the 11-year-old kept forced to sit alone at recess as punishment.

In order to protect children against excessive use of discipline and child abuse we seem to have created a problem about what to do when children are naughty. In some cases, punishment is necessary as it reinforces accepted codes of behaviour. If children are disruptive and violent in school, teachers now have very few courses of action open to them, hence resorting to verbal abuse. While not wishing to comment specifically on the case of the 11-year-old mentioned in the papers, in general, is making a child sit alone at recess excessive punishment? Personally, I think not.

To prevent any misunderstanding on the part of the student and the parents, the reasons for any punishment should be given to the student and a note clearly stating the facts given to the parents to be signed and returned to the school.

In today's society, smacking children is frowned upon and some countries have even tried to get laws passed to ban it completely. Instead of smacking, I am supposed to explain and reason with my children. But has anyone tried to reason with an hysterical three-year-old? Believe me it is not easy.

Disciplining children is a difficult issue. To determine when we have crossed the line between punishment and child abuse is never going to be an easy issue as people's opinions will always vary. Children learn acceptable behaviour from their parents and schools. If we cannot reprimand them we are heading towards a society where they are not given any clear boundaries.

It is human nature that some children will test their boundaries to see what they can or cannot get away with. Any sort of punishment should come with an explanation, be it from the parents or the school.

Fiona Bishop, North Point

Q Should the Town Planning Board approve the Mega Tower project?

In the Financial Times of July 24-25, Jane Jacobs, the campaigner and author who helped preserve some of New York's best-loved neighbourhoods, stated her rules: keep footpaths wide to encourage mingling; leave old buildings in place to maintain a mix of rent levels on a given block; don't cut down the trees.

Wan Chai is probably the most vigorous and diverse neighbourhood in Hong Kong. It is news to me that it is in dire need of rejuvenation. It just needs to take the above advice on board to keep it evolving. A proper bank financing system for ageing properties would help.

Grand planning schemes usually lead to over-development and a lack of vitality. Do we wish to model Wan Chai on the dismal Tsim Sha Tsui East, which is itself already in need of real revitalisation?

Roger Emmerton, Mid-Levels

Q Should a golf course be developed in Sham Chung?

A golf course should not be developed in Sham Chung. It's a dull, boring idea for a scheme that will benefit only a few golfers, some ex-residents and Sun Hung Kai.

Despite the efforts of some ex-residents and Sun Hung Kai, Sham Chung is still a lovely area, in a marvellous setting. It would make a superb site for a more environmentally sensitive tourism project. Existing houses could be renovated as comfortable accommodation, restaurants, shops, perhaps even a living museum. There are fine old woods, land where freshwater marshes can be recreated to attract egrets and dragonflies, and for the Hong Kong paradise fish, whose home here was so casually devastated. As well as enjoying wildlife and scenery, visitors could hike, fly kites, ride mountain bikes and simply relax away from the city.

With Hong Kong now promoting eco/cultural tourism, I'm sure that if the ex-residents and Sun Hung Kai begin such a scheme, they will find willing and enthusiastic partners in the Tourism Commission and the Tourism Board. Working well together, all parties could bask in the glow of admiration from green groups.

And, it's interesting that Li Chun-fai, an ex-resident who now lives in Tai Po, says the grass is being cut because of 'hygiene problems'. This couldn't be related, then, to any suggestions that if grass grows longer it could attract rare species - and so reduce the chances of obtaining permission for development, could it?

Another bizarre point, to me at least, arises from the Lands Department suggesting a golf course can be classed as agriculture - when the only 'crop' anticipated is money for the few.

But for all the strangeness shrouding Sham Chung, there's still time for a change of direction, for introducing a more innovative, more enlightened project that will benefit the area, the current and former residents, Sun Hung Kai and Hong Kong as a whole.

Martin Williams, Cheung Chau

On other matters ...

In weather as lovely as this, what better way to spend a lunchtime or a warm evening than enjoying one of our city's clean and well-maintained public pools.

So for what possible reason does every public pool close at such ridiculous times of the day?

Only in Hong Kong could our very own Leisure and Cultural Services Department leave its swimming patrons so high and dry.

Adrian Archer, Sheung Wan