Disabled students battle against the odds in Hong Kong's pre-university exams

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 16 July, 2015, 3:56am
UPDATED : Thursday, 16 July, 2015, 3:53pm

A 21-year-old with spinal muscular atrophy - a degenerative disease that has paralysed most of her body - beat the odds by achieving results that could qualify her for a university degree.

"I am actually a living miracle. Doctors said I would die as a baby, and then when I survived, they said I would die when I was three years old, then at seven. But I've lived until now," said Josy Chow Pui-shan, a student at SAHK B M Kotewall Memorial School in Kwai Chung, which caters for people with special educational needs.

She completed six subjects in the Diploma of Secondary Education exam, scoring 21 marks. Josy hopes it will be enough to qualify for the Bachelor of Arts programme at the University of Hong Kong.

People living with muscular dystrophy require constant and intensive care. The disease has hampered mobility in most of Josy's body, except for certain facial muscles and two fingers of her right hand. Unable to eat solids, she is fed through a tube three times a day.

All of Josy's textbooks and homework have been scanned onto a laptop, which she can read and type with a special mouse pad.

Although Josy spent most of her first 16 years in hospital, her disabilities have not stopped her from pursuing her studies.

"She's very well disciplined and she often reads up on all the materials even if she's in the hospital. I'm always inspired by her perseverance," Denise Lam Hiu-chi, Josy's class teacher, said.

Josy is one of 1,746 students with special needs who took the DSE exams this year.

Two students from another special needs school, the Hong Kong Red Cross Princess Alexandra School in Lam Tin, did not achieve the scores they hoped for, but are still optimistic.

Leung Ka-fai, 24, who suffers from cerebral palsy, a condition that impairs movement and coordination, said: "I did not do so well in my exams, but this might be a good thing for an arts-based person. I have lots of hobbies, so education is just one aspect of my life. I still have lots of opportunities ahead."

Ka-fai, who scored five points, intends to apply to the Hong Kong Institute of Vocational Education and hopes to engage in social work.

Au Ho-kwan, who suffers from the same disorder, is unable to control most of his body and cannot speak. He scored four points and has enrolled for an online degree in psychology and sociology at Open University.

The school's principal, Elaine Wu Siu-ling, was moved by the perseverance of her students.

"I'm very happy to hear our students are full of mental energy. I think society needs this more because a lot of young people today, once they encounter a difficulty think, 'Why is the world so unfair?' But look at our students," said Wu.