The Education Department has rejected calls for a new aided school to be built to cater for Nepalese children now studying in squalor in Yuen Long. Used syringes left by drug abusers and dead rats are just two of the horrors that greet pupils when they turn up for classes at privately-run Poinsettia Primary School in a disused shopping mall. Supervisor Ganesh Ijam said there was an urgent need to turn the impoverished school into an aided one and that managers planned to apply to the Education Department (ED) later this year for new premises in Tin Shui Wai. But the department told The South China Morning Post there was no need for a school to cater for the ethnic minority. Principal education officer (New Territories) Steve Lee Yuk-fai said: 'Mainstream schools in or near Yuen Long can provide more than sufficient places for ethnic minorities.' This is a claim that Mr Ijam rejects. 'How can the department justify what it is saying? Integration in Chinese-medium schools is impossible because ethnic minority children cannot communicate with their classmates and teachers. Many of them have been rejected from mainstream schools because they don't speak Cantonese.' He said the problem was especially difficult for children who had migrated to Hong Kong recently and had not had the benefit of integration at an early age. But an ED spokesman said the department's policy was one of integration, not segregation. 'Our goal should be to integrate these children into the education system and we offer assistance, such as a placement service, to help them. We also offer training programmes for children who have been here for less than a year.' He said schools were obliged to take the pupils if they had places available and if they didn't, the ED would find them a school, adding that the only reason children remained outside of the aided school system was either because parents had chosen private schooling or had not brought their case to the ED's attention. 'Hong Kong is a free society and parents can choose their own ways, whether aided or private places. But if they have a problem all they have to do is take their case to the local education office,' he said. Goretti Ho, the department's senior school development officer (Yuen Long), said Poinsettia had been offered the opportunity to share school premises with an adult vocational college in Tuen Mun, but the offer had been turned down. Mr Ijam said the proposal had been rejected because an adult college was not suitable for children and Poinsettia was in debt and could not afford the $35,000 monthly rent. He said it was also studying the feasibility of running the school with UMAH International Primary School, another private institution catering for ethnic minorities in the same district, and hoped to establish a through-train with Delia Memorial School. Poinsettia principal Gigi Warne said a large international organisation she could not name while negotiations were occurring was helping them lobby the ED. 'We are hopeful we will be given an aided school in the end but we will be stuck here for at least the next three or four years [until construction work on the new school in Tin Shui Wai is completed]. It's going to be really hard for us,' she said. Fermi Wong Wai-fun, social worker at Unison Hong Kong For Ethnic Equality, said the Education Department should not treat Poinsettia in the same way it handled other profit-making private schools because it was 'serving children mainstream schools are unable to help'. Ken Chow Wing-kan, Yuen Long district councillor, said it was unlikely Poinsettia would be allocated a new school site because of its financial problems. He said the department was trying to place the South Asian children with village schools with a low local intake but added they would need extra government support to accommodate them. Ms Wong, who recently visited six village schools in the New Territories, agreed they would provide a suitable learning environment for South Asian children because of their small class sizes and flexible use of resources, but said the move would not overcome the language problem highlighted by Mr Ijam.