Children with behavioural or emotional problems need to be supported not ostracised

Objection to school for students with special needs in Tuen Mun is not only discriminatory; it’s shocking that it comes from educators and politicians

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 10 May, 2016, 10:29pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 10 May, 2016, 10:29pm

Having a behavioural problem or mental or physical disability is bad enough; those who are affected often contend that the lack of acceptance by society is even worse. Anti-discrimination laws and education should have made Hong Kong caring and tolerant towards such people, but cases that arise from time to time prove there is still a way to go. Objections to the relocation of a school for children with special needs from Lantau to Tuen Mun highlight that there can be stigma even when it comes to that most essential part of growing up: education. Public pressure fortunately ruled the day and the plan has cleared its first hurdle at a Legislative Council panel.

The Tung Wan Mok Law Shui Wah Primary School has no room to expand at its site in South Lantau and the government has found land to meet its needs in Tuen Mun. It is one of seven educational facilities in our city known as schools for social development that offer short-term help for children with behavioural or emotional problems. After completing their courses, the 60 boys aged between seven and 14 will return to the regular schooling system. Yet the relocation plan prompted a campaign to keep the children away, with Choi Kwok-kwong, the principal of the nearby Yan Oi Tong Chan Wong Suk Fong Memorial Secondary School, joining a handful of district councillors from the pro-Beijing Federation of Trade Unions and New People’s Party in pushing for a different location.

Lawmakers from those parties, however, helped clear the way for Legco to consider funding. Choi has apologised for comments in a letter to Legco saying such students would be a bad influence on others due to their vices and addictions, although he has not indicated whether he would alter his stance. His expression of regret was necessary; such views from an educator are shocking.

Children with behavioural or emotional problems need our acceptance, care and support. They should be made to feel part of a community rather than be isolated from everyday people. To do otherwise is to stigmatise and prevent rehabilitation.