Low-income Hong Kong families seek subsidies for computers, extra-curricular activities

Calls came at an education forum on Sunday where parents and teachers voiced their concerns over the government’s spending plans

PUBLISHED : Monday, 04 September, 2017, 7:03am
UPDATED : Monday, 04 September, 2017, 7:03am

Needy parents have urged the government to give them ­subsidies out of the HK$20 billion extra earmarked for ­education to pay for their ­children’s extracurricular ­activities and computers for study.

Those whose children have special education needs also wanted a bigger say in how they were taught.

The calls were made on Sunday at an education forum jointly organised by nine grass roots groups. Some 120 parents, their children and teachers attended to voice their concerns at spending plans.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor pledged to increase recurrent government expenditure on education by HK$5 billion a year. A HK$3.6 billion package of priority measures was endorsed by the Legislative Council in July.

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In April, Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po also announced an extra one-off HK$18 billion for education after increased revenue from land sales boosted the government’s budget surplus for 2016-17 to HK$110.8 billion, well above the HK$92.8 billion he had estimated in his February budget speech.

With HK$3.6 billion already accounted for, HK$19.4 billion is up for grabs.

A spokeswoman for the forum organisers, Catlyn Ho Yu-ying, said Lam had failed to consult grass roots groups on her HK$5 billion spending scheme.

“She decided on a HK$3.6 billion package after discussing with teachers’ groups,” Ho said. “But what matters the most in education is our students.”

Ho said they had proposed a subsidy of up to HK$4,000 for low-income families to buy computers for their children, which should be doubled for those with three children or more.

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“Computers have become a necessity nowadays. But many students from poor families cannot afford to own their own computers and have to use public computers at libraries or community centres.”

During the three-hour forum, parents also called on the government to offer more subsidies to allow their children to attend extra-curricular activities. An earlier survey by the Alliance for Children Development Rights found that close to half of children from low-income families could not afford to join after-school activities.

Ho also hoped that schools would set up panels with parents’ representatives that allowed them a formal channel to monitor and be consulted on how children with special education needs were taught.

She said they would submit their joint petition to the Education Bureau.