Parents at ousted kindergarten reject offer of places at replacement

PUBLISHED : Monday, 14 April, 2014, 6:21am
UPDATED : Monday, 14 April, 2014, 6:21am

Parents of pupils at a Tin Shui Wai kindergarten that lost its campus to a rival have dismissed a government offer to help get their children places at other preschools, saying they want to stick with their original choice.

Topkids International Preschool announced a week ago that it had lost its Sherwood Court, Kingswood Villas campus after rival Zenith International Education Foundation outbid it.

"We chose Topkids in the first place for our kids because we have confidence in the school's teaching quality and its mission," said Au Chi-hang, a member of a parents' concern group.

"Now the situation is like the engineering faculty at a university being closed and students affected being told that it wouldn't make any difference if they switched to other majors," Au said on RTHK's City Forum. "Is this the right attitude that a government should have?"

Zenith, which also runs the only other kindergarten at Kingswood Villas, has offered Topkids parents a slight reduction in school fees and an 85 per cent discount on miscellaneous fees, which are usually much higher at Zenith than at Topkids. Au said the government was also helping parents find places with Zenith.

But Au said parents should have more than one choice of kindergarten operator and said there should be a transitional period of at least a year before Topkids closed. He repeated a demand that Topkids be allowed to move into an empty school nearby, a suggestion the government has rejected because the site is earmarked for a primary school.

Law Wai-mei, spokeswoman on early childhood education for the Professional Teachers' Union, urged the government to stop treating kindergarten provision only as another commercial service. She called for intervention to prevent big commercial operators from forcing smaller kindergartens out of business, and warned of more problems next year, when the large number of children born in 2012, the auspicious Year of the Dragon, start preschool.

Parents and teachers at Topkids will today present a petition letter to lawmakers at the Legislative Council complex. They are to meet education minister Eddie Ng Hak-kim on Thursday for a discussion co-ordinated by the Beijing-loyalist Federation of Education Workers.

More than 500 parents protested on Saturday at the Cheung Kong Center. Tycoon Li Ka-shing's Cheung Kong empire owns 28 per cent of Topkids' landlord Fortune Real Estate Trust, but the group clarified that it was Singapore-listed APA Asset Management (Fortune) that managed the company.