Letters to the Editor, February 24, 2014

PUBLISHED : Monday, 24 February, 2014, 2:52am
UPDATED : Monday, 24 February, 2014, 2:52am

Minorities face challenges in the classroom

The government has determined that pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into Chinese-language education for ethnic minority students will open the door to tertiary education and white-collar employment. I have serious doubts that it will.

The minorities in question were not, themselves, consulted as to their needs. Frontline teachers were also not asked for their input into the challenges faced by their students. None of my students have ever been interviewed about the difficulties they face.

Much of the policy appears based on the message repeated by the well-meaning NGO Unison that the main obstacle to success for ethnic minority students is Chinese language ability.

I disagree, and believe that there has never been a real and sincere effort to offer ethnic minority students the holistic education they deserve as supposed equals in Hong Kong.

As a teacher of ethnic minority students, I have classes where spoken Chinese ranges from very basic to fluent. Reading and writing abilities vary as well. However, many of my students are failing a host of subjects, including maths and liberal studies, two core subjects.

What is the government doing to help them with these requirements?

Students face a number of potential challenges besides succeeding academically: poor peer influences; low expectations from family and school; no mother-tongue support in school; little recognition of their cultural identities; discrimination by other students; a curriculum which does not interest or reflect them; and a sense that the education system is stacked against them.

Is the government even aware of the enormity and complexity of the situation?

One cannot argue that Chinese is a must for all Hong Kong students attending local schools.

But the government appears to have fashioned a simplistic response to the question of how to help ethnic minority students succeed in school and in Hong Kong.

Throwing cash at the problem does not work.

The focus should be on gathering stakeholders and helping schools to fashion challenging curricula that motivate ethnic minority students to continue with their studies while recognising their particular needs.

Dor Arie, Tin Shui Wai


Samaritans offer help for the suicidal

The recent suicide of a worker at JPMorgan in Central has caused profound shock. We would urge anyone who feels the anguish that this man must have felt to seek help.

Suicidal behaviour is often associated with a crisis, a stressful life, or personal loss. Most often (around 90 per cent) of those attempting suicide have mental health problems, perhaps related to depression or other illness.

Often a person with suicidal feelings experiences an ambivalence: the wish to die existing at the same time as a wish to be rescued and saved.

Crisis services, such as suicide prevention hotlines, have played a part in helping those with suicidal feelings for more than 60 years.

Do they work? A number of studies have found a clear reduction in feelings of hopelessness and psychological pain after calls were made, and a consequent reduction in suicidality.

Talking about suicidal feelings to those you know is immensely difficult. Crisis hotlines are 100 per cent confidential and anonymous. We do not have telephone caller ID. Talking through the difficult issues people face can often be a lifeline to recovery.

Help can be reached at the Samaritans multilingual service (English and Cantonese) by diallling 2896 0000 (24 hours) or e-mail jo@samaritans.org.hk.

People may also call the Suicide Prevention Services (Cantonese) 2382 0000; or the Samaritan Befrienders HK (Cantonese) 2389 2222.

Deborah Crouch, chief executive, The Samaritans Hong Kong Hotline


Three-year wait too long for toll change

Our ministers are so busy and far-sighted that the agony of the public hardly matters to them.

Therefore, they ignore the present and plan to consider redistributing traffic by adjusting Cross-Harbour Tunnel tolls in three years.

The problems of the public are not considered so urgent because ministers are not caught themselves in gridlock traffic when they go to work.

The Polytechnic University transport specialist Dr Hung Wing-tat rightly claimed, "If they plan to do it after 2017, it means they are not planning to do anything … We'll have another government by then."

No serious efforts have been made to mitigate the suffering of road congestion.

Now we wait for three years until the government regains ownership of the Eastern Harbour Tunnel.

Even if we were to build a new tunnel, it would take years to plan and construct.

I have lived nearly 50 years in Hong Kong, but not come across a single letter in favour of tunnel tolls, though almost all people express deep dismay and do not hesitate to recommend a uniform toll and building a new tunnel to ease traffic as we can afford it and have surplus funds.

The ministers hardly suffer. They only notice there's a problem when protesters are outside their office.

This clearly indicates their lack of concern towards public problems, suffering and hardship. Top officials generally travel by luxurious chauffeur-driven limos and mostly use the less-congested Western Harbour Tunnel.

They are in no way affected so they are not in a hurry at all to have a uniform tunnel toll or an extra tunnel to ease suffering and reduce traffic congestion.

A. L. Nanik, Tsim Sha Tsui


Chinese help is a real blessing for Africa

Jane Goodall condemns China for depleting Africa's resources and degrading its environment and wildlife ("Goodall slams China's colonialism", February 19). She fails to mention China's development aid to this needy continent, motivated by a mixture of altruism, empathy, humanitarianism and the self-interest incentives of economic and strategic gain.

Locals view China's aid to Africa as a blessing.

Unlike the colonialist British who have neglected public work improvements, funds and engineering expertise from China have led to the construction of a sealed road to Victoria Falls from Livingstone in Zambia. This has boosted local earnings from tourism and strengthened conservation efforts.

In its sprint towards modern prosperity, China is seen as rapacious and neglectful of its environmental obligations. As an emerging donor, it has yet to garner the humanitarian credibility that post-war reconstruction help for a defeated Germany and Japan fostered for the United States and Britain. This reputation was forged in the crucible of the just world wars of the 20th century, with heroic virtue and resuscitating vanquished foes adding lustre to Western aid.

It is no wonder that China remains the target of suspicion on the world stage.

Joseph Ting, Brisbane, Australia


TVB Olympic coverage spans 5½ hours daily

We refer to the letter by Mr Antony Wood, commenting on the broadcast of the Sochi Winter Olympics by TVB ("TVB Olympic coverage is not up to scratch", February 19).

With the interest of the viewers in mind, TVB acquired the exclusive broadcast rights of the 22nd Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia.

In addition to broadcasting live the opening and closing ceremonies, comprehensive coverage of this world-class sporting event is given by our Jade, HD Jade and Pearl channels.

A total of five-and-a-half hours coverage at different timeslots was scheduled every day, with two-and-a-half hours broadcast live on HD Jade; one-hour daily highlights on Jade; and two-hour daily highlights on Pearl.

Moreover, viewers are able to catch up on the latest about the events at the main and late news on Jade and Pearl as well as iNews channel every half hour or so.

We have received many favourable comments and appreciation for bringing the Winter Olympics to Hong Kong viewers.

Indeed, this is the first time such comprehensive coverage of the Winter Games has been provided by a free-to-air television channel in Hong Kong.

Also, we wish to point out that the signals of Sochi 2014, including interviews with athletes and officials, are provided by the host broadcaster.

Winnie Ho, assistant controller,Corporate & Community Relations Department, TVB


Beware of Black Monday crash repeat

The comment in your editorial ("Pros and cons of circuit breakers", February 20) that "exchange officials … should think about the potential danger of flash crashes in the local market" is valid and warranted.

The voices that shout "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" should think on the adage that "Pride comes before a fall".

We appear to have short memories; "Black Monday", October 19, 1987, should be a touchstone. This market crash began in Hong Kong and spread westwards, and stock markets around the world shed huge value in a very short time.

By the end of October, the value of Hong Kong's stock market had almost been cut in half.

The most cited explanation for the 1987 crash was selling by program traders as a reaction to the computerised selling required by portfolio insurance hedges.

History has a nasty habit of repeating, especially in the face of overconfidence or complacency.

The most expensive words in the finance industry have proven to be, "it's different this time".

Charlie Chan, Mid-Levels