Fear over shortage of preschool places spreads to Tuen Mun
Local parents queue all night at kindergartens, hoping applying early will make a difference
The scramble for kindergarten places at preschools in Sheung Shui and Fanling has spread to districts further from the border amid growing fears locals may miss out due to an influx of Hong Kong-born mainland children.
In Tuen Mun yesterday, local parents lined up outside a popular kindergarten to submit their application forms, worried that mainland children would deprive their own offspring of a preschool place.
As early as last Friday, many parents who live near STFA Tuen Mun Leung Lee Sau Yu Kindergarten had already used stools to mark their places in the queue.
But there was trouble yesterday between a local mother, who stood in front of the stools in the morning, and the stools' owners, who arrived later to find themselves displaced from the queue.
Police and kindergarten staff had to step in to end the dispute.
Yesterday, some 250 parents were queuing, most of them local and living in the area. The preschool had to start collecting the forms half an hour earlier than planned. The submission process ends at 4pm on Friday.
Engineer Nick Ho, 31, said he took half a day off work to submit the form for his daughter. He said he would have had to take more time off if he had not used a stool to reserve his place in the queue.
"Everyone is queueing up at every kindergarten … so we followed suit," he said, adding that he had applied for four other preschools. "If we submit our form earlier, our child might get … considered earlier."
But Ho might be disappointed, as principal Kwok Kwai-mui said the preschool would consider only the children's performance in interviews. She said the school collected more than 700 forms yesterday, but would admit fewer than 200 pupils.
Another Tuen Mun parent, Joyce Chan Pui-sze, said she might send her daughter to a Kowloon Tong kindergarten instead. She said the preschool at Yau Yat Tsuen Garden City would cost HK$1,000 a month with a kindergarten voucher, and the 45-minute school bus ride to and from Tuen Mun would add another HK$1,000 a month.
"We are all indigenous Hong Kong people. We pay taxes and rents and should have our returns," said Chan, who pulled two all-nighters applying for several other preschools.
She said when she gave birth to her daughter at Baptist Hospital, the five other women in her six-bed ward were mainlanders. "I'm not having another child. We've had enough," she said.
But Shenzhen mother Guo Qiaoxiu said mainland parents should not be discriminated against. She said that to prepare for her son's education, her family sold two properties in Shenzhen's Nanshan district to buy a HK$3.8 million flat within walking distance of the Shenzhen Bay border crossing. It takes just 15 minutes by bus from the crossing to the Tuen Mun kindergarten.
"If we can't get my son into the preschool this year, we can only try next year," she said. "We've spent five nights queueing at different kindergartens."