Long commute takes a heavy toll on lives of Mui Wo children

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 11 May, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 11 May, 2011, 12:00am


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Before belittling the needs of the marginalised children of Mui Wo, not to mention those of other villages in south Lantau, Chan Hoi-yan ('Empty school in Mui Wo must be given to drug rehab college', May 5) should take note of a few basic facts about the young.

First, the physical health of the children of Mui Wo and south Lantau is being impaired right now by the lack of a local school.

Children need a decent amount of sleep: any doctor will tell you that. But how can a child get enough sleep when he or she has to rise at 5am to go to school, and go to bed at a correspondingly late hour after a long commute home?

Seeing these children arrive at Mui Wo ferry terminal shortly after 5.30am is heart-rending. And for some of these young people, the commute is not two to three hours, but three to four hours. My daughter is one of the luckier ones, averaging just under three each day, but exhaustion still makes her vulnerable to every cold or flu that's going round.

Second, many of the children of Mui Wo and south Lantau suffer psychologically as a result of the long journey. These hard-working but dislocated young people lack the time and energy to study effectively, as anyone knows who has seen them on the ferry studying or sleeping or alternating between the two. No surprise then that the proportion of young south Lantau residents completing secondary education is low relative to other parts of Hong Kong.

After-school activities become difficult or impossible, which means that it is harder for them to demonstrate their potential when applying for tertiary education. And at home, they have less chance to play a full part in family and community life.

Already, young lives have been blighted and action is needed urgently to stop the damage.

These problems are community-wide, moreover. They affect the children of old village families, of Chinese who have moved to south Lantau from elsewhere and those of other descent.

Careful research by Mui Wo Rural Committee and concerned south Lantau parents shows that a well-run local secondary school for local children would be supported by more than 90 per cent of parents; and that there are the numbers to justify this now as well as in the future since more young families are moving to the area.

The secondary school building in Mui Wo is the only place where the children of Mui Wo and the nearby villages can have a local school.

The parents of south Lantau and the local community are campaigning for simple things which parents the world over will understand - educational equality and justice for their children. They won't give up.

Amanda Snow, Lantau