• Tue
  • Sep 16, 2014
  • Updated: 10:56am
NewsHong Kong

St Margaret's Girls' College priced out of Sheung Wan

Priced out of its Sheung Wan campus, St Margaret's Girls' College is told it can have a temporary home in Sha Tin - if it stops enrolling pupils

PUBLISHED : Monday, 02 June, 2014, 5:20am
UPDATED : Monday, 02 June, 2014, 5:20am

The future of a 49-year-old secondary school in Sheung Wan hangs in the balance as its rent reaches unaffordable levels.

Although the government allocated St Margaret's Girls' College a temporary site, it refused to give the school a permanent new home - saying instead that it should stop enrolling new pupils.

Parents will meet lawmakers next Monday to ask the government to find the school a permanent location as soon as possible.

The school's board chairman Eddie Lei Kwok-kit said the monthly rent went up from HK$200,000 to HK$350,000 in 2011. He said school administrators had decided not to renew the lease, which expires on August 31, as consultants had told them the rent would probably be raised to more than HK$400,000 this time.

"If we renew the lease, we'll have to raise tuition fees," Lei said. "But 70 per cent of our pupils are from an ethnic-minority background and many parents can't afford higher tuition fees."

Fees at the direct subsidy school range from HK$8,000 to HK$13,500 per year.

Lei said the government had given St Margaret's use for five years of a vacant campus in Sha Tin after a school closed. But it came on condition that it must stop enrolling new pupils.

That means St Margaret's may too have to close if it fails to secure a permanent campus before its 400 pupils from Form One to Form Five graduate, Lei said.

Parents were urging the Education Bureau to find the school a permanent location so that it could continue enrolling pupils, he said.

"St Margaret's plays a very important role in helping ethnic-minority pupils integrate," said Paul Stables, chairman of the school's parent-teacher association. "We have a vibrant multicultural education. This is something worth fighting for."

Lei said the government had refused to promise the school a permanent campus, insisting instead that it wait and apply for the next batch of available sites.

"The Education Bureau is completely irresponsible," said parent Charles Yeung Chun-kit, whose daughter will start Form Five in September. "Parents are all very offended … They're living off taxpayers' money and this is how they treat us."

Yeung said the school did not spoon-feed pupils but engaged them in group discussions, cultural interactions and creative activities. "It's like a low-cost international school. It will be a loss to Hong Kong if it closes down," he said.

Civic Party lawmaker Kenneth Chan Ka-lok said the officials' response to the school's plight reflected their "bureaucratic thinking". He said it was unreasonable for the government to save a school that was facing closure because it lacked pupils, yet leave a popular school such as St Margaret's in the lurch.

In a written reply to the Legislative Council last month, Education Undersecretary Kevin Yeung Yun-hung said St Margaret's could apply for a new home via the school allocation exercise. "Land is a valuable resource. School premises have all along been allocated in an open, objective manner," Yeung said.

But when the Canadian Overseas International School closed in 2001 due to financial difficulties, the government set up a temporary home for its pupils and promised it a permanent campus. The school is now the private Renaissance College.


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This article is now closed to comments

The Education Bureau, along with almost every department of this ineffective government, scores a Z.
I can guarantee you that no one in the Education Bureau have kids going to this school, which is why they don't care, and kind of sad that they are stupid enough to suggest Sha Tin...
Most families live in a certain area for the school, what? You're going to make them move houses and or get their kids to travel about 2.5hrs a day to go to school.
Instead of getting pay rises and not contributing much, how about have some common sense for a change.
The Education Bureau should be ashamed of themselves. How can they look in the mirror?
Their solution is to 'stop enrolling students'? Even for HK standards, that is a new low.
So one school less for the children of the ethnic minorities to enroll at. The Education Bureau should give this school a pat on the back for catering to ethnic minorities. It should also pull out all the stops to locate a new home for this school. I just cannot believe that the idiotic bureaucrats have actually told the school to stop enrolling new pupils. Sack the whole lot of these idiotic civil servants who proposed this.
The Education Bureau is completely useless. It manages to consistently score 'F' grades. What a mess - only the parents and children suffer. These people don't even know their geography - bussing children from Sheung Wan to Sha Tin? What are these people doing on a daily basis as they certainly aren't working for the people of Hong Kong.
St Margaret's is one of the few schools in Hong Kong that truly assimilate ethnic minorities. It's infuriating that the Govt is not protecting this beacon of a school, let alone doing more to encourage other schools to follow in its footsteps. I hope the school wins the battle against the Govt's property rule books.
The entire government has been infected by the property virus. Every department thinks and acts like a landlord. These small-minded bureaucrats have become drunk with power. They think they are property tycoons who can raise rents and move schools, hospitals and other important community organizations around like pieces on a chess board.
How is the Hong Kong community well-served by raising St. Margaret's rent so high that it has to move or shut down? The EB's ridiculous proposed solution is to move to a temporary site in Sha Tin and stop enrolling students? Have they completely lost their minds?
Meanwhile these same civil servants complain and moan about their salary increases when most Hong Kong people, including parents with children at St. Margaret's College, are happy just to hang on to the jobs they have as they struggle to make ends meet.
"Let them eat cake", is the true Hong Kong civil service motto. They insult the public they are supposed to be serving.
Do they not sense the growing anger, frustration and desperation felt by large swathes of the Hong Kong population? The handling of this St. Margaret's College situation is just the sort of government arrogance and stupidity which is fueling widespread bitterness towards and resentment against the government.
The fools are courting a popular revolution and they don't even know it.


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