PUBLISHED : Friday, 18 December, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 18 December, 2009, 12:00am

Do more for the mentally disabled

There were protests this year by mentally disabled students and their families. They wanted the right to a free education after they have graduated from secondary schools. This has raised people's awareness of the problems they face. Education is just one of them. Shelter is another.

Since medical care has improved greatly in recent decades, life expectancy for the mentally disabled has risen. For instance, the average for those with Down's syndrome was 26 in 1970. Now, many of Hong Kong's estimated 87,000 mentally disabled live well into their 60s. Parents naturally worry that there will be no one to care of their children after they have died or have become too weak to take care of them themselves. That's why they are desperate to get placements in hostels that offer care.

One positive development is the government has set up 16 district centres that aim to help the mentally disabled acquire the life skills needed to live independently.

We, as the public, can also do more. We can donate money to non-profit-making organisations or charities that provide services to the mentally disabled, such as the Community Chest and the Hong Kong Joint Council of Parents of the Mentally Handicapped. Such organisations arrange courses for the handicapped to learn working skills. They also run day-care centres and hostels.

Meanwhile, companies can employ the handicapped to do relatively easy work, such as packaging and cleaning. This will give them a chance to become independent.

Hong Kong is a prosperous and well developed city. But we should not just focus on economic growth and ignore people who need help. They also have rights.

Tammy Lam, Kit Sam Lam Bing Yim Secondary School

Policy address offers little

I had never had high hopes for the Chief Executive's policy address, but I'd still like to comment on two issues, especially as the school drug-testing scheme is to start.

The policy address said that sites in Ho Man Tin and Wong Chuk Hang will be reserved to provide 4,000 places for self-financing students to pursue university degrees.

This is a good plan as Hong Kong students will have more choices and more opportunities to study at university. But I do not think it is a good idea to allow more mainland teenagers to study here. It would result in more competition for school places. The public exam syllabus already puts a lot of pressure on secondary students - bringing mainland students into the mix would mean more pressure.

Meanwhile, the school drug-testing scheme is obviously well intentioned. But the results are likely to be disappointing as it is voluntary. If I were a student who was addicted to drugs, I would not take a test.

To me, the drug-testing scheme is simply another example of policy addresses dealing with unnecessary things.

Joyce Wong

Learning from disadvantage

Close your eyes for a moment and imagine having next to no money and being blind. This is what I saw when I joined other students on a trip sponsored by NGO Orbis to a poverty-stricken area on the mainland.

Many of the people there were either blind or had poor eyesight. Their living conditions were terrible. I visited a family of eight and all of them had the same eye problem. I felt I would have given up if I were them, but I saw a 40-year-old woman making a bamboo basket. She was trying her hardest despite everything.

I stayed there for a week, and one blind seven-year-old told me he wanted to go to school and become a doctor for the blind.

This trip taught me we should treasure what we have and do our best to help people in need. I think everyone should try charity work.

Janet Wong, SKH Lam Kau Mow Secondary School