New term, and new set of problems
For both the poor and the better-off, the gloss was taken off the first day of school for many parents and their children yesterday by factors as diverse as soaring costs and a looming campus move.
Wong Chun, the mother of a six-year-old from a low-income family, said the beginning of school for her meant only huge expenses. She has already spent more than HK$3,000 on back-to-school necessities, a third of it on textbooks - with more expenses to come.
'It's just the first day of school and my son has already brought home a few notices informing me to pay this and pay that,' she said. 'From the HK$100 air-conditioning fee, the HK$15 student photo-taking service to the HK$20 school dental care service, everything's about money.' Wong, whose son attends school in Sai Wan Ho, said extra-curricular activities were a luxury. 'I don't dare think about them at all,' she said.
She has to rely on aid from the St James' Settlement charity for basic items such as stationery and bags.
Meanwhile, on well-heeled Stubbs Road, children started school at the private Lingnan primary, kindergarten and nursery school without knowing how long they would be staying in the present premises - or in the case of the primary students, where they would be moving.
The school said three months ago that it had to move out of the present building by January because of safety issues and illegal structures, though parents suspect it may have more to do with a new development next door. Alternative premises have been found for the younger children several kilometres away in Siu Sai Wan, but the school said last month it was still negotiating for a new site for the primary school.
Parent Doris Chan said she feared the move would affect her son's preparationsfor secondary school next year. 'The first day of school this year is not a smooth one for my boy. I'm not even sure whether he can finish the last year of primary school life in this campus.'
The first day did not go smoothly for more than 100 cross-border students either. Some of them had not found places in local schools until July, but the application deadline for closed- area permits - giving them access to Lo Wu Station Road and public transport at the Lok Ma Chau border crossing - was June.
They needed to use other means of transport.