The battle for places at kindergartens in North District is heating up, with police called in over complaints about disputes outside one school yesterday.
But when they arrived at Sheung Shui Wai Chow Kindergarten, where almost 1,000 parents were waiting, all was calm.
Parents living in North District are joining the battle for preschool places, along with an increasing number of mainland parents, waiting for days outside local kindergartens for a limited number of application forms.
Many, as in Sheung Shui, are bringing bedding and stools. Police said people had complained about agents holding places in the queue for parents.
The school will give out the 900 forms this morning.
Heidy Chan Hau-yi, a 27-year-old Hong Kong housewife living in a nearby estate, started queuing around 10pm on Thursday for an application form for her two-year-old. She said it was quite chaotic at the beginning and she saw a local man beating a mainland woman with a little child for cutting into the queue.
"I'm really worried my child will have to go to a kindergarten far away," said Chan. "It's really unfair that I'm living here, but have to queue overnight just for an application form."
To distinguish parents from scalpers and agents, the kindergarten yesterday gave out 500 number tags to those who could present both their identity cards and their children's birth certificates. But some scalpers still managed to get the tags. One mainland parent said an agent tried to sell her a tag for HK$800, but she turned it down.
CCWF King Shing Kindergarten in Fanling distributed its 150 forms yesterday, but more than 70 parents who had not queued up early enough did not get one.
Li Liang, 31, from Shenzhen, was among the lucky ones. He had been queuing since Wednesday evening. Li said he applied to almost 10 kindergartens in North District for his two-year-old son, who was born in the city. "I want my son to experience Hong Kong society as early as possible, receive a thorough Hong Kong education and become a thorough Hongkonger," he said.
Kindergarten principal Leung Wai-fan said the preschool would admit 75 pupils this year and would treat local and mainland children equally.
Fung Kai Kindergarten, in Sheung Shui, where at least 100 parents waited yesterday, said parents would be told on Monday where they could wait to pick up a form and said the school would issue 2,000 forms this year.