BEING A SECONDARY school teacher can be a real tough job these days - especially if you are at Tam Lee Lai Fun Memorial Secondary School in Tuen Mun where this sense of challenge is taken quite literally. 'I am not joking,' principal Fong Shun-yuen tells Young Post. 'There are about 80 of us on the staff and everyone, teacher or secretary, has to climb it at least once. 'In order to set a good example, I was the first [school member] to reach the top.' Of a long staircase? Wrong. But of a 21-metre - or six-storey-tall - wall. When it was built two years ago, the sport climbing structure was the tallest of its kind in Hong Kong. And like everyone else in his school, Mr Fong was a total stranger to the activity. But two years and numerous cramps and bruises later, the 42-year-old principal and 20 of his staff members have conquered the structure and are now qualified, internationally, as sport climbing instructors. Mr Fong recalls: 'The very first time I made it to the fifth level? I was holding on to the rope as tightly as I could. I was at a point of no return. The wind was blowing through my hair. 'Then I looked down and found I was dangling 20 metres above ground. And I asked myself: 'God! Why am I doing this?' ' Indeed, his staff wondered too. But it all began in 1983, when Mr Fong was still a teacher. That summer, he joined a 10-day adventure programme organised by Outward Bound, during which all participants had to undergo a series of tough physical tests. 'I remember I had to stay on a deserted island for three whole days, where I had no one to talk to, no phones or radio. I was a complete castaway.' Trying it might have been, the experience had become a great source of inspiration for Mr Fong, who at the time was still trying to figure out what education really meant. He says: 'While a lot of emphasis is put on the academic achievements of students, we must not forget there is also a spiritual dimension to education. And life experiences always have a far-reaching influence on shaping one's personality.' So three years ago, Mr Fong wrote to the Quality Education Fund, with a proposal to build a standard sport climbing wall in his school. After six months, his proposal was approved and the school received $120,000 for the project. 'The reason for promoting the sport is to compensate for what textbooks or lessons cannot offer,' Mr Fong explains. 'By taking part in the sport, I hope my students will be able to strengthen their resolve and enhance their self-esteem and esprit de corps to become dynamic teenagers with a strong character. 'This is something that you can never learn in class.' Since the wall was erected, Mr Fong has encouraged as many of his students as possible to take part in the sport. And his efforts have paid off. Lai Chi-wai, 18, won the first ever sport climbing championship for Hong Kong at the 2nd Asian Youth Championship (junior category) in Beijing in October last year. The fifth former is now a core member of the SAR sport climbing team. 'My greatest wish is to develop a 'never yield' culture in my school,' says Mr Fong. 'I want every child in my school to become a strong, dynamic and progressive teenager. All those instructor certificates or trophies are nothing but extra bonuses.'