PUBLISHED : Saturday, 02 October, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 02 October, 2010, 12:00am

ESF has worked hard at evading parents' fears

I refer to the article ('ESF accused of stifling dissent', September 23) and the letter from Heather Du Quesnay, chief executive of the English Schools Foundation ('ESF has worked hard at reforms', September 28).

The Overseas Inspectors' Association raised a number of concerns in our original letter to Mrs Du Quesnay, none of which she has addressed. The ESF is largely funded through school fees paid by parents and taxpayers' money in the form of a government subvention.

As ESF parents we want to know that the finances provided to the ESF are not squandered on non-educational areas such as office staff and new corporate headquarters. The 2004 audit on the ESF found the organisation very much wanting, especially at a managerial level.

Various recommendations for improvement were made and we now ask that a thorough review be conducted to ascertain whether ESF management has acted on these recommendations.

This is not just a concern of our association. Officers in the other police staff associations as well as thousands of ESF parents in the community at large are equally concerned.

We question why Mrs Du Quesnay finds it necessary to try to divert attention from such issues if the organisation is doing such a great job complying with the 2004 recommendations.

She neglects to mention the meetings and correspondence that have passed between our members and her office in recent years.

These have got us nowhere, which is why we have now decided to take matters directly to the Legco education panel.

By way of example, ESF parents want the government subvention to be increased to parity with that provided to Direct Subsidy Schools.

This is something that Mrs Du Quesnay has been told repeatedly through the Joint Committee, Parent Teachers Associations and the Committee of Parents. What has she done to bring this up with the government? All we have seen are fees increasing on an almost annual basis to make up any shortfall, and the introduction of the HK$25,000 refundable capital levy .

For the government to consider raising the subvention, the ESF must show that it has put its house in order and, if it has not, then we as parents and as taxpayers want to know why.

We have no issue with the excellent standards of teaching. On the contrary, we support the teachers and trust that they are receiving a fair remuneration package.

Our concerns are with openness and transparency, genuine parent representation, an assurance that action has been taken on the recommendations of the 2004 audit report, and with ESF management, which appears to want to deflect attention from these very issues.

Mrs Du Quesnay mentions partnership. She should realise that this involves genuine communication and mutual co-operation, not merely presenting parents with a fait accompli each and every time they raise an issue of concern.

Ron Abbott, chairman, Overseas Inspectors' Association

Policy hurting homeowners

I refer to the letter by Edmund Chen ('Government must meet housing needs of HK's middle class', September 24).

Many people from outside Hong Kong, especially mainlanders, are buying property here. Because these buyers want luxury flats, developers are inclined to meet that demand rather than construct apartments that most Hong Kong residents can afford.

But I do not think the government should offer subsidies to help the middle class buy homes.

Residents should buy houses using money that they have earned through their own efforts. Owning a flat is a goal to aim for and it should encourage them to work harder.

Property prices will not come down unless the administration scraps its policy that confers migrant status on mainlanders who spend a certain sum on property. Under the present system, demand is huge and so the cost of buying a home will keep rising.

Given that the supply of housing units for middle-class citizens is insufficient, the government does have to build more sandwich-class housing units. In this area, there is no point in pinning any hopes on the private developers.

Cheng Lam, To Kwa Wan

Less waste, less landfill demand

I understand why Tseung Kwan O residents are angry with government plans to expand the nearby landfill ('Residents protest over beauty spot landfill plan', September 27). They complain of bad odours and more traffic caused by refuse trucks.

Expansion is necessary as we have a shortage of landfill areas and the present site in Tseung Kwan O will reach capacity as early as 2013. The government has said it will do what it can to alleviate the problems they are experiencing. For example, it will ensure affected streets are washed at regular intervals.

The landfill site was created before many of the nearby private estates were built. Residents should have realised it would pose problems before they moved there. Having said that, it is important that a concerted effort is made to have a less wasteful society so that it is no longer necessary to expand any landfills.

W. H. Chan, Kwun Tong

Renovations worth the cost

Despite the high cost of renovation, I support the Blue House heritage project in Wan Chai. Attention is being paid to the needs of existing residents, who will be provided with lifts in the buildings and modern kitchens and toilets.

I also welcome the eco-friendly project at the Old Tai Po Police Station, which will be run as a green hub.

The city's old buildings are part of our collective memory. These schemes show that we can strike the right balance between development and heritage conservation.

Eva Kong, Sheung Shui

Charity has high expectations

I appreciate the idea of trying to help someone who is deprived find hope, but I am not sure that offering a free meal is the best way of doing that ('Free meal to help deprived find meaning in life', September 27).

When people are not appreciated and there is no recognition of their efforts, they can lose their ambition and also lose sight of their goals. Some people show a marked deterioration and begin to believe they are worthless.

This is what can happen with street sleepers. They become accustomed to their way of life and feel they have been let down by society, but are they likely to change just because they get a free meal?

Of course they will benefit from having the food and perhaps it helps them feel they are not ignored, but I don't know what other outcome could be expected by this religious group.

Chris Au, Wong Tai Sin

Too many still go hungry

There still many people in Hong Kong who some days do not get enough to eat.

You can see some of them searching for food in bins. People living on the streets do not look after themselves. They forget to eat and do not think about their hunger.

When I see such people, it makes me feel very lucky.

By contrast, we have individuals who are very well off and who will often leave food on their plate at a restaurant.

I wish they would spare a thought for those who may have gone days without a proper meal.

Perhaps there is a need for a change of attitude in this city.

Chan Yin-tung, Sha Tin

'Arrogant HK' myth debunked

Philippine journalist Ramon Tulfo has called Hong Kong people the 'most arrogant in the world' ('Columnist accuses Manila of appeasing 'arrogant' HK', September 26).

I am from the Philippines and visited Hong Kong earlier this month.

Before I came here, I was worried about what kind of reception I would get from Hong Kong people, but my concerns proved to be unfounded. In fact as I came to the end of my trip, I was sorry that I had to leave.

Hong Kong is so clean and safe and the citizens are self-disciplined. I made a purchase using my credit card while in a mall and the shop assistant treated me just as she would any other customer. I asked a police officer for directions and he was happy to assist me.

The other thing that I admire about Hong Kong is the lack of corruption. I totally disagree with Tulfo. I was a witness to the kindness of Hongkongers.

James Enriquez, Balanga, Bataan, Philippines

Drug education

Some young people take illicit drugs out of curiosity. They may not even be aware that these drugs are addictive.

With other teens, it is an act of rebellion against parental guidance. They think that they are mature and can take care of themselves.

Young people also start taking drugs as a form of escapism, thinking they will feel happier. Obviously such emotions quickly evaporate once they become addicts.

As a society we need to pay closer attention to this problem. Young people must learn how to cope with failure and appreciate that sometimes they will feel down.

Parents should not neglect their children and must do their best to stop them from going astray. The government needs to have more publicity campaigns highlighting the destructive power of drugs.

Yu Hoi-ying, Tuen Mun