PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 18 June, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 18 June, 2008, 12:00am

What do you think of the English Schools Foundation fee rise?

I am encouraged to see that legislators are backing a campaign by parents against yet another rise in English Schools Foundation (ESF) school fees.

With three children in the ESF system, I have endured an increase every three years, which always seems to be a higher percentage than the annual pay rise benchmark.

As a result, practically my entire pay rise seems to go on school fees and I never seem to be any better off financially. Coupled with this is the ESF's insistence that we pay two months of school fees in June to secure a place for our children in September.

With three children in Primary School, this means that next June I will be paying fees amounting to HK$17,430. When I complained, I was told that I could apply for assistance for the first year but thereafter I should 'budget accordingly'.

It would be a good idea if parents were consulted, instead of the usual practice of informing us of what has already been decided.

As parents, we are encouraged to take part in our child's education, from homework to school trips, popcorn and bake sales, school plays and events. But on issues such as fee increases, advance payments for September fees and school trips, we do not have a voice.

It is interesting to note that according to ESF chief executive Heather Du Quesnay, 'We have a full consultation mechanism in place.' Exactly with whom do they consult? Certainly not the parents whose money goes towards the cost of schools and teachers.

I think it is time the ESF took note that not all parents who send children to their schools are on expatriate compensation packages.

Fiona Bishop, North Point

Have you been charged for services you didn't know you were using?

I have a mobile phone contract with CSL. On March 14, HK$7,155.22 was deducted from my credit card account for my phone bill payment. Of that amount, HK$6,788 was related to Web charges.

I lodged a formal complaint with CSL and, to date, I am still waiting for the company to get back to me.

Two items automatically downloaded and caused an automatic connection - these were related to the Mark 6 results and a Daily Weather report. Both items were never requested by me. In February, when I was overseas, the connection would stay open for hours until I woke up and was able to notice and turn it off.

Calls were made to CSL to disconnect this service, but it continued. I have disputed these charges but to date, have received no response.

Kevin Cramb, Lantau

What is the best age for retiring?

It is a controversial question and I think different people have different answers.

Some may say 55 or above, some may say before 45, or retire whenever they want to. Everyone has his or her own dream, and some regard their career as their dream.

Some are able to carry on working in their career until they are 70 years old without feeling tired.

The retirement age should be dependent on one's ability, health and feelings.

Personally, I will consider retiring once I have saved HK$3 million or more, so that I can enjoy life in retirement.

Truda Tsoi, Sheung Shui

Most of us, I am sure, would like to retire from the rat race as soon as possible but two thoughts spring to mind.

As our retirement packages are now invested via the Mandatory Provident Fund or savings plans in stock markets around the world, can we really establish a fixed date for retirement? What happens if the stock market collapses just before we plan to retire?

Either the final package will be substantially reduced or we will have to work for many more years to build it back up again. It's also a matter of time. People tend to live longer these days and retain their faculties. So we should look for some hobbies that can generate some part-time income or engage in some philanthropic work to stave off boredom.

Wai Lai Ti-lai, Lantau

What do you think of the way the government has handled the bird flu outbreak?

It is not surprising that the government has been heavily criticised about how it deals with bird flu. It has failed to act promptly and reassure the public.

When will our officials wake up to the danger of a potentially disastrous outbreak? Insensitivity and indecisiveness are clearly shown in how our officials responded to the discovery of bird flu.

If a complete ban on the stocking of poultry overnight has been proven to minimise the risk of infection, what is still holding us back? Compensation to retailers? The government should recognise that public health comes ahead of traders' interests.

It is the root of the outbreak that we should target. Macau was much more decisive. They made a swift decision to ban housing birds at markets overnight. Their quick thinking and action should make us feel ashamed.

Borromeo Li, Kwun Tong

The government should concentrate its efforts on resolving major problems affecting Hong Kong instead of consuming itself with appointing officials.

To resolve the bird flu issue, a central slaughterhouse should be set up to effectively control the inflow of all cattle and birds from the mainland, to prevent any future outbreak.

The most senior officials from all departments should convene and the slaughterhouse should be set up as soon as possible.

Regarding landslides and flooding, the city should set up an emergency taskforce to study and identify frequently affected areas and to effectively implement preventive measures on a year-round basis.

Paul Chiu, Discovery Bay

On other matters ...

I refer to M. Parker's letter published in Talkback on June 4, concerning the loss of a Speedpost item.

We have already expressed our regret to Ms Parker for the loss of the Speedpost item she mailed and explained to her how we have handled this unfortunate incident.

In the letter, we disclosed that we lose less than 0.02 per cent of mail sent through Speedpost. This was not us congratulating ourselves, but was intended to show that Speedpost is not completely risk free.

Our operational experience shows there is still a 0.02 per cent risk that items sent through Speedpost will get lost or damaged for a host of different reasons which, unfortunately, are sometimes unavoidable.

That is why, if I may reiterate, we always advise our clients to insure valuables against loss and damage for better protection.

I do not expect our reply will make Ms Parker happy, as her loss might be irreparable.

I would only like to assure your readers that Hongkong Post will do its best to handle all mail items properly and meticulously, and that should there be any problems arising, we will try to provide any assistance we can to hopefully minimise the damage and losses that might be caused to our clients.

Mary Chung, for Postmaster General