My Take

Lessons must be learnt from schoolgirl's death

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 25 July, 2015, 12:59am
UPDATED : Saturday, 25 July, 2015, 3:01am

The uncaring and mendacious attitude of senior staff at the CCC Kei Chun Primary School over the death of a 10-year-old pupil has rightly caused city-wide outrage.

It remains to be seen whether those involved would be properly investigated and whether educational authorities would learn a lesson to improve the reporting of serious accidents at schools for the safety of students.

In delivering an open verdict this week in the death of primary five student Law Cheuk-ki, coroner Ko Wai-hung was scathing in his criticism of the two vice principals at the Kwai Chung school. Law died after falling from a building at the school in 2013. The open verdict means the cause of death is undetermined. At issue was the way the school failed to call the 999 emergency hotline, the careless manner in which the vice principals dealt with ambulance medics and the reliability of their testimonies during the inquest.

The coroner blasted Shek Ling, one of two vice principals, describing her testimony as "full of nonsense and lies". He said the other vice-principal, Ko Yuen-wah, was "not trustworthy".

He also reprimanded Shek for doing a mock impression of the dead girl's grandmother in court and for saying her parents would learn a lesson from the incident. He said it was "like rubbing salt on the family members' wounds".

In an unusually tough statement, the coroner said he completely failed to observe any semblance of the standard of a proper educator among senior staff at the school. He has referred the case to the police and the Department of Justice. The staff must be investigated.

From the inquest, meanwhile, it emerges that some but not all schools in Hong Kong have a stringent policy about calling 999. This means only the most senior staff can make the call.

The reason is, apparently, to avoid the attention of police and the media.

Some schools like CCC Kei Chun Primary would rather call the St John Ambulance service, which is not an emergency service and does not have the same availability to make a speedy arrival.

In light of this misguided and dangerous policy, the Education Bureau must act to reverse it and penalise those who refuse.

The priority must always be the safety of school children.