HK$200,000 levy stirs anger

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 20 January, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 20 January, 2007, 12:00am

Parents of students at Yew Chung Hong Kong International School are angry at its decision to demand a HK$200,000 debenture or find another school.

Yew Chung's secondary section in April last year announced it would cut fees from this month by about HK$20,000 a year but would also introduce the compulsory debenture to be paid by March.

The debenture was deemed necessary to help pay for the school's new HK$224 million campus in Kowloon Tong, into which it moved this month and was partially paid for by a HK$104 million land grant from the government.

However, Betty Wong, a spokeswoman for a concern group which she said had more than 100 members, said parents were upset that the plans had been pushed through without consultation of parents and that those who were unwilling or unable to pay the debenture would have to find another school.

'Our children have been in the school's international section since kindergarten but the school never mentioned anything about a debenture before this,' said Mrs Wong, whose 13-year-old son is in Year Nine. 'Now they say if we can't pay, our children will have to leave. HK$200,000 is a lot of money.'

But Winnie Cheng Wai-yee, assistant director of Yew Chung Education Foundation, which runs the school, said the school had maintained a dialogue with parents since the debenture was announced and promised that it would 'not let even one child go if they have any difficulty to purchase the debenture'.

'We have contacted each and every parent individually,' she said. 'About 95 per cent of parents accept the debenture is necessary.'

She conceded a small number of parents had been 'difficult to reach', but insisted resistance was limited to 'a handful' of parents.

The foundation had established a debenture unit to discuss with parents 'various options' to finance the debenture, including bank loans at 'very favourable rates'.

'If they don't feel like paying the debenture they have all the time until the end of the school year [to find another school],' she said.

Her colleague, Gary Morrison, also assistant director and head of international education services, said parents had a choice.

'There are choices. Parents know that,' Mr Morrison said.

But Ms Wong said her group had received no response from the school since July or August: 'They keep saying that they contact every single parent, but they never get back to us. This is an excuse. The interest on those bank loans is really expensive. The school is pushing its problems on to parents.'