Use empty schools at night to benefit the whole community

PUBLISHED : Friday, 13 February, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 13 February, 2009, 12:00am

There are about 81 secondary and primary schools in Tuen Mun.

Normally, they would be closed at 7pm. However, our schools offer abundant social resources to our community. We should make good use of schools' space when they are unoccupied at night. This could enhance the quality of life of low-income families in this part of Hong Kong.

Many people attend courses in the evening, sometimes for leisure and sometimes to improve their skills and job prospects. People who are unemployed need to be retrained.

However, tuition fees can be expensive, because locations must be found for these courses and rents are high. Schools could be made available at low cost for retraining and continuing education programmes run by non-profit organisations.

Schools can also provide space for recreational activities for the local community. Most of them have a basketball and badminton court, a table tennis table or rock climbing area which could be enjoyed by families in the evening.

There are four sports centres operated by the Leisure and Cultural Services Department, but this cannot meet the demands of half a million residents in the area, and hiring fees are quite high. Schools can provide cheap and easily accessible venues for local residents to enjoy at an affordable price.

Finally, we can recruit teachers from the schools to teach foundation subjects (for example, English, Chinese, computer studies and accounting) to help people who are poorly educated.

Policies like this cannot bring about changes in the economy or reduce unemployment. But they are a low-cost way of enhancing residents' quality of life. We should utilise public space and help local people make good use of their spare time.

They can take courses that improve their career prospects and enjoy their spare time with their families through recreational activities.

I think this policy of opening schools would also work in other parts of Hong Kong. Our schools are collectively a valuable social asset that can make life better for people, especially citizens from low socio-economic backgrounds.

Stefan Lam, Tuen Mun