Subsidy plea for after-school classes

PUBLISHED : Monday, 26 August, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 26 August, 2013, 5:50am

About 100 parents and children protested outside the chief secretary's home on The Peak yesterday, demanding a subsidy so that the city's poor children can participate in after-school activities.

These 320,000 children are from families covered by the Comprehensive Social Security Assistance Scheme, or they are eligible for textbook allowances, the group's organisers said.

They handed a petition to a representative of Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, urging the government to provide a HK$200 monthly activity subsidy, and calling on the Education Bureau to review the subsidy every year.

Extra-curricular activities - including after-school tuition and other classes - have become an important factor in getting into good secondary schools and universities, said Kaki Lam Man-wa, one of the protesters and a community organiser with the Alliance for Children Development Rights. She added that such activities accounted for up to 40 per cent of scores in admission interviews, but poor families could not afford the classes, which can cost more than HK$1,000 a year per child - not including any uniforms, instruments and books that might be needed.

Jenny Chan, 35, was also at the rally. A full-time mother of three boys, her husband works in a warehouse and earns about HK$10,000 a month. She wanted two of her boys, who are at primary school, to take extra English classes, but the family cannot afford the monthly fee of HK$700 each. "Me and my husband didn't have much of an education," she said. "We can't help them. We have no money for any other classes either."

Lam said there were already three types of after-school activity subsidies. Two of those are just HK$400 a year per child. The third one is HK$1,400 but is capped at 6,000 pupils per year.

Yoyo Chan Ka-yiu, of the Neighbourhood and Worker's Service Centre, said: "The subsidy system is incomplete. It helps a few, but there are many more."

Meanwhile, a Society for Community Organisation survey of 200 families found that 30 per cent of their children do not participate in activities over the summer as they can't afford the fees.