Thousands apply for schools as mainland kids born in Hong Kong return
At Sheung Shui kindergartens, applications may already have exceeded places as mainland children born here return to study
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Thousands of applications from mainland parents are expected by Sheung Shui kindergartens as children born in Hong Kong to parents from across the border in recent years return to be educated.
Applications received by just two of the 17 kindergartens in the town bordering Shenzhen may already have exceeded the total number of places available.
At Fung Kai Kindergarten yesterday, hundreds of parents, many speaking Putonghua, formed a queue that stretched across the road outside.
"It is scary," said a Hong Kong parent who waited four hours to get an application form.
The pressure on northern kindergartens is expected to grow as more children born in Hong Kong to mainland parents reach school age.
Educators have warned that the demand will spill into other areas.
The number of such births increased steadily until the government stepped in to curb the influx.
By noon, Fung Kai Kindergarten had received 500 applications for the 240 places available for the next school year.
Principal Leung Man-shan said the school expected at least 1,400 applications.
She said it did not measure how many of its youngsters had a mainland background as it meant little to them.
"As educators, if children come with a Hong Kong birth certificate, we need to enrol them," Leung said. But she added that a third of the school's current pupils travelled from Shenzhen every day.
At Sheung Shui Wai Chow Kindergarten, principal Wong Shuk-chun said the school had received 800 applications in an enrolment exercise late last month, although it had only 120 places for next year.
She added that the kindergarten would try to maintain a 50:50 balance between children of local and non-local families.
Despite possibility of multiple applications, demand for the two kindergartens alone is likely to have surpassed the 1,465 new places offered by the 17 non-profit Sheung Shui kindergartens.
The Hong Kong parent who had waited for four hours at Fung Kai Kindergarten, giving his name only as Lam, said he had applied to three schools in the district for his child, who will have to compete with other children in interviews in the coming weeks.
A mainland father from Anhui province, who was also in the queue, said his child was born in Hong Kong in 2010 because of the mainland's one-child policy. "Back at home, I would have been fined 200,000 to 300,000 yuan," he said.
Officials have repeatedly insisted that is difficult to gauge how many children would return to Hong Kong for their education after being born in the city.
The number of children born in Hong Kong to mainland parents rose to 33,000 in 2010 and to 35,000 last year, after which the government imposed new rules at borders and hospitals.
North District Councillor Lau Kwok-fan said education demand had exceeded supply in the district, adding that the government should set out policies to divert demand to other districts.