Plan ahead for cross-border pupils: Democrats

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 10 September, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 10 September, 2013, 5:19am

Democrats have urged education authorities to estimate the likely influx of cross-border pupils for the next few years, as figures showed more than 20,000 children - a 21 per cent increase - crossing the border to go to school every day this year.

Almost 36,000 children born in Hong Kong to mainland parents in 2011 will start school by 2017, official figures show.

The Democratic Party, whose representatives surveyed the situation at the border crossings yesterday, expects at least 7,000, or 20 per cent, of those children to attend schools here.

This would put greater pressure on the border checkpoints and schools in the North District, it said.

Democrat lawmaker Helena Wong Pik-wan said the Education Bureau had not projected the influx for the coming years, so the Immigration Department could not decide how many resources to allocate at the crossings. This year, to cope with the rising number of cross-border pupils, a simplified clearance procedure was introduced at all checkpoints. Registered pupils pass through counters that are lower in height, and officers use portable radio frequency identification scanners so that the process takes mere seconds.

Pupils on buses that use the Huanggang, Man Kam To and Sha Tau Kok crossings do not even have to alight from the vehicles. Immigration officers board the buses to confirm their identities with the portable scanners. Officers took only 10 minutes to clear a bus of 40 pupils, the party noted. The busiest crossing, the party said, was at Lok Ma Chau with 6,400 pupils passing through in groups each day and another 5,000 pupils who cross the border on their own.

An Education Bureau spokesman said it was hard to predict the influx as various factors affected parents' decisions to send their children to school here and which checkpoint to use.