WHEN 82-year-old Mr Ho Kai-cheong takes a walk during the Easter break he will be stretching his legs after squeezing behind a tiny school desk. Mr Ho, like the 30 other post-secondary students at the Christian Hongkong Nam Wah College, is one of the older generation who have gone back to the classroom. They are a generation who some authorities say could help fill childcare and teacher gaps. Mr Ho, who is two metres tall, puts a hand to his mouth and chuckles when he recalls his first day back at school. ''As a managing director of a big factory in Malaysia I was used to sitting behind an executive's desk, but I realised I would have to humble myself if I wanted to get a degree,'' he said. He migrated from Malaysia to attend the college and found it a peaceful relief from the ups and downs of business. ''It allowed me to concentrate on one thing, set a goal and pursue it. It is a lot less tension because it is not erratic.'' He still keeps a close eye on his pharmaceutical business back home, but attends the two-hour classes at the Shamshuipo campus each day. The principal, Reverend Ip Wing-chak, said there was no rush for seats when class begins at 9.30 am - students with hearing problems were placed at the front. The students' average age is 65 and they share the same level of dedication, but study ranges from Chinese literature and history to theology or sociology. The reasons they give for taking the classes range from World War II depriving them of the chance to study, to bridging the generation gap. Housewife Mrs Lai Woon-ming said she felt ''idle and empty'' after she retired. ''My grandchildren came to visit and I felt I had nothing to talk with them about. Now we discuss our study.'' However, when it comes to homework ''we look after our own'', she insisted. Friendships extend beyond the classroom. When one student was sick, others shopped for him and visited him at home. This week the student council is planning a holiday outing, perhaps to China. Hongkong Association for Continuing Education secretary and Shamshuipo district board member, Mr Mervyn Cheung Man-ping, said the college provided social support and activities for the aged population of Shamshuipo public estates. ''There is no reason these people cannot play a role in childcare and education of their grandchildren, or even go back to the classroom another time to work and help fill the teacher shortage,'' he said. In recent years, the college students have won accolades such as second prize in the Hongkong Elderly Choral Competition and first prize in the Hongkong Elderly Beauty Contest. At the school's 10-year anniversary and graduation celebrations in July, Mr Ho is expected to become one of the noted achievers when he receives his theology degree. ''As Chinese we have a saying, 'No matter how old you are you are still learning','' he said.