Still strong demand for school, ex-head says
The headmaster of the now-defunct Mui Wo school whose campus is being sought by a drug rehabilitation college has attributed the closure of the only secondary school in Southern Lantau to government blunders and a mismatch of resources.
Au Pak-kuen, headmaster of the New Territories Heung Yee Kuk Southern District Secondary School, which closed in 2007, said there was still strong demand for school places among residents in the district.
Mr Au, chief treasurer of the Professional Teachers' Union, said the number of pupils admitted to the school had been falling since the 1990s, partly because there were frequent leadership changes.
'The school was managed by 10 different headmasters from 1992 to 2007. That was why many parents did not have confidence in the school.'
At its heyday in the late 1980s there were about 900 pupils at the school, although numbers were down to about 200 when Mr Au took the helm in 2005. The government-run school, which was set up in 1982, had not been allowed to enrol Form One students since then. Since December 2006 the Christian Zheng Sheng College has been pressing for permission to use the school.
Mr Au said a study conducted by the school in 2006 found there were 600 pupils in Southern Lantau aged three or above.
He submitted a proposal to the education and manpower bureau in 2005 to run a through-train school by linking the Heung Yee Kuk school with two primary schools: Mui Wo School and Bui O Public School. Under the through-train scheme, primary and secondary schools with the same philosophies are encouraged to link.
'But the bureau rejected our proposal on the grounds that the cost of running such a school is too high,' Mr Au said.
The principal of Mui Wo School, Yuen Wai-kwan, said it also submitted an application to use the vacant secondary school in 2006 and 2007.
'Parents in Mui Wo have been expecting to have a school for their children for so long,' she said.
'Yet we heard nothing from the Education Bureau. When the parents heard that the government wanted to give the site to the drug rehabilitation school, they felt very shocked and upset.'
Mr Au said it was unfair to blame Mui Wo residents for being critical towards drug rehabilitation students.
'The government should grant a vacant school site to the college in districts where there are surplus school places,' he said.