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International schools in Hong Kong

Protests outside Hong Kong church over ‘mismanagement’ and fire safety issues at international school it runs

Group of parents and teachers call for board of Christian Alliance International School to stand down when its term ends in August

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 24 June, 2018, 9:12pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 24 June, 2018, 10:03pm

Parents and teachers from an international school protested on Sunday outside the church that oversees it, accusing it of poor management including hiding a fire safety issue on a new Lai Chi Kok campus.

The group also called for the Christian Alliance International School’s board members to step down when their terms are up in August and bring parents onto the body.

As church-goers arrived at the Kowloon Tong Church of the Chinese Christian and Missionary Alliance for the Sunday service at 10.30am, the group of about 30 – mainly parents and a few teachers – gathered. They held placards declaring that the school was being mismanaged and the church had not listened to their complaints.

They handed out copies of a letter addressed to the congregation, detailing their concerns and requests, including their claim that the school’s board members hid “a major fire safety issue” from parents, teachers and pupils. They said the issue had “jeopardised the lives of more than 1,000 people from mid-April to now”.

According to a source close to the matter, the issue involved the automatic sprinkler system at the new campus not working, caused by an adapter damaged by dripping water. But the source noted that the sprinklers could still be activated manually and the fire alarms were working. In any case, he noted, the system had since been fixed.

The protesters slammed the board – known as the registered management committee – for “intentionally [failing] to disclose to parents that there is no outdoor play area” before moving into its new campus in Butterfly Valley.

The Christian Alliance International School opened last year at the new, 2 hectare campus in Lai Chi Kok, intended to take in 300 new pupils and absorb those from sister school Christian Alliance PC Lau Memorial International School. The latter, with a campus in Kowloon City, is currently suspended for renovation.

The school’s fees range from HK$106,000 to HK$166,700 for the coming academic year. In addition, parents have to fork out HK$560,000 for a one-time, individual capital note for every first child enrolled – which can be sold on to other parents later – or pay an annual levy of HK$27,500.

The parents and teachers called on board members – including school supervisor Clarence Chan, a surveyor and member of the church – to step down when their terms end in August. They called for a transparent structure to the board, and for parents’ representatives to be added. According to the school’s website, the board is appointed by the church.

The group left peacefully after an hour.

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A church spokesman defended its selection of board members, saying it had “rigorously selected suitable members” as school managers on a volunteer basis, in accordance with Education Bureau requirements.

He added the church welcomed suggestions from parents and had set up, in April, a school council comprising elected staff and parents to give feedback on school operations.

As well as the two international schools, the church operates 15 kindergartens, primary schools and secondary schools.

An Education Bureau spokeswoman said it was aware of the incident and would continue to follow up with the school.

She said schools must ensure the safety of the school environment and comply with relevant laws.