Drug rehabilitation school trapped in a funding limbo

PUBLISHED : Friday, 03 July, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 03 July, 2009, 12:00am

Christian Zheng Sheng College, the city's only combined drug rehabilitation centre and private school, is not able to rely on the Education Bureau to pay for its relocation plans because of its unique dual purpose.

The college, which has more than 100 students, is at the centre of a dispute over its hopes to leave its overcrowded premises on southern Lantau in favour of the vacant Heung Yee Kuk Southern District Secondary School building in Mui Wo. Local residents oppose the move.

The Education Bureau drew fire from legislators yesterday at a special Legislative Council education panel meeting because the bureau was not helping the school relocate.

Wong Yuk-man said the school was overcrowded and had substandard classrooms.

However, Undersecretary for Education Kenneth Chen Wei-on said the college had no local precedents on which to draw, so the bureau would have to consider the college's proposals before agreeing to fund its relocation. In the meantime, the school could only seek subsidies as a drug rehabilitation centre, from a fund under the Security Bureau.

'After the relocation plan is set, we will talk with Zheng Sheng about its detailed relocation needs,' Mr Chen said. The location would be finalised after discussions in the Islands District Council and Heung Yee Kuk, principal assistant secretary for security David Wong Fuk-loi said.

College officials disputed the bureau's position. 'The Education Bureau is not doing what it should in its position,' college supervisor Jacob Lam Hay-sing said. 'The bureau has never been in touch with us to talk about the relocation issue.'

He said young drug users might not be able to get an education. 'Some of our students had been out of school for a year or two before they came to us. But they should still be in the free education framework.'

In response, an Education Bureau official said the bureau had a team that tracked students aged 15 or under who had left school. Staff would help get them back into school.

The question of whether students identified as drug users under a pilot scheme of voluntary drug tests at schools - to be implemented in the next academic year - would receive adequate support was also a subject of debate. Legislators said they were concerned that students could be forced out of school or have their identities revealed in public.

School managers, teachers and discipline teachers would be given specially tailored information packets in the coming school year, Mr Wong said. '[The packets] will include information about who should be told about students' conditions.'

And the Security Bureau would 'intensify' a probation order scheme in the second half of this year, he said. A special team would be set up to cater to youngsters given probation orders due to drug problems.

The teenagers would have their behaviour checked against the terms of their probation more frequently. If they behaved well, the probation period could be shortened. But if they broke any rules, they could be brought before a judge to account for their actions, Mr Wong said.