A blind student and a reformed drug addict took their first steps into college life yesterday at Chinese University, backed by their excellent showing in the Diploma of Secondary Education exams.
The pair will take bachelor degree courses in translation and education, respectively.
Tsang Tsz-kwan, 20, "lip-read" her way to academic success. By reading Braille with her lips - made necessary by a lack of sensitivity in her fingers - she won a place in the university's translation department.
The enrolment offer marked a new start in her life, Tsang said, and she hoped to live an ordinary campus life like her peers. "I know I will confront many challenges as university is quite different from secondary school," she said. "I will do my best to adapt to the new environment."
The graduate of Ying Wah Girls' School was born almost blind and can no longer see. She has also been hearing impaired since Primary One. But the disabilities did not stop her from scoring 5** - the highest grade in the DSE - in three subjects.
The university would help Tsang fit in, including providing transport and equipment such as a Braille typewriter, dean of students Dennis Ng Kee-pui said. Student volunteers would also assist her.
Olivia Cheung Wing, a second-year Japanese studies student, served as Tsang's eyes on her first day at university.
"I was both thrilled and worried when the faculty told me I would be her student helper," said Cheung, who accompanied Tsang to the inauguration ceremony and a faculty tea reception. "I didn't really know how to assist a blind person - she taught me more than I was able to help her."
Arts dean Leung Yuen-sang said he was impressed by Tsang's independence and strong will.
"It would be best if we could treat her the same as the other students," Leung said.
Lui Wing-ho, 23, had different aspirations and concerns. Coming from the Christian Zheng Sheng College, which rehabilitates drug abusers, he hoped his achievement would inspire other pupils at the school.
"When you are determined to change, our society will offer you the opportunity," Lui said. "But I have mixed feelings standing here because I've heard that Zheng Sheng pupils are finding it hard to get to school."
Last week, the Marine Department ordered the school not to use an unlicensed sampan to ferry pupils, teachers and volunteers from Cheung Chau to its campus at Ha Keng.
Principal Chan Siu-cheuk said a one-way hire for a passenger boat cost up to HK$1,200. He said the school was to meet the Liberal Party, which yesterday made an offer on radio to sponsor the boat rental for two months.
Separately, a boat owner said he was willing to donate a yacht that could hold 40 passengers.
Lui urged the government to help. "We [at Zheng Sheng] cherish every opportunity to study."