Scores of children from low- income families have improved their school grades, thanks to a project that aims to use education to break the brutal cycle of poverty in Hong Kong, where the wealth gap is one of the widest in the developed world.
One of the pupils to have benefited, Hugo Lau of Kowloon Women's Welfare Club Li Ping Memorial School, knows all too well how the field trips and tutorials in homework and English have helped him in his studies.
Hugo is among more than 100 pupils who received book tokens as rewards for academic progress or outstanding performance.
"After the homework class, I can ask the teacher if I have any questions," he said. "I can also learn spelling in English class.
"I am going to use my book tokens to buy a science reference book. I can't wait!"
The scheme is run by China Citic Bank International (CNCBI) and is known as the CNCBI Knowledge Angel Academy.
It grew out of the Knowledge Angel Project that CNCBI and St James' Settlement began together in 2008. Some of the funding came from the Social Welfare Department's Partnership Fund for the Disadvantaged.
The bank has made a HK$10 million commitment to the project, which aims to help children change their destiny through hard work and, in the long term, to ease the problems of intergenerational poverty and wealth disparity.
In the first four years, 700 children from low-income families benefited from free tutoring.
In its first year as the Knowledge Angel Academy last year, it offered three-year bursaries to 600 children.
As well as taking homework and English classes, the pupils get to go on field trips every year to broaden their horizons.
After just one year, the academy has seen tangible results. Sixty-six per cent of pupils have scored higher marks in English and more than half have made progress in Chinese and maths.
April Cheung, a pupil at Po Leung Kuk Fong Wong Kam Chuen Primary School, said: "In class, we use games to learn vocabulary and writing, which has given me more confidence in my writing. Now I can write a 100-word essay in grammatically correct, fluent English. I will continue to work hard so I can get better grades."
CNCBI has also been a sponsor of Operation Santa Claus - a charity drive jointly organised by the South China Morning Post and RTHK - for three years.
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