New start for new school year More dialogue to find way forward
25 August 2019
At the close of this year’s summer holidays which are full of chaos and disturbances, with only one week to go before the new school year, parents are seizing the time to prepare their children for returning to school. I hope that various sectors of the community, regardless of their stances on the current issues, will support our teachers and parents in protecting our next generation of young people by ensuring that they can take lessons and learn in a peaceful and harmonious school environment.
In the current financial year, against the backdrop of a sluggish macro environment, the Government has provided students at child care centres, kindergartens, and primary and secondary schools who are receiving Comprehensive Social Security Assistance with a one-off grant of $2,500 each to alleviate the burden of education expenses on grassroots families. Payment of the grant has been made starting from last Friday (23 August). About 70 000 students have benefitted. Ten days ago, as a further step to ease the pressure of living on parents amidst the present economic downturn, the Government announced that a subsidy of $2,500 would be provided for each of the over 900 000 kindergarten, primary and secondary day-school students in Hong Kong in the 2019/20 school year.
Apart from financial support, psychological and emotional support for students is also important. Some students may feel nervous, anxious and stressed in coping with the school curriculum and environment when they are promoted to a higher form. This, coupled with the recent social confrontations in Hong Kong, may make them feel at a loss. Being weak at heart, they need us, the older generation, to protect them. I hope that parents, teachers and social workers alike will take the initiative to show concern for our children and help them develop positive thinking. They should be helped step by step to get things off their chests and to develop a positive and active outlook on life. Where necessary, professional assistance should be sought to help them find a way out of their predicament as early as possible.
To my great dismay, some people have called for class boycott, which will disrupt the tranquility and harmony of our safe and inclusive learning environment, and exert tremendous pressure on schools, teachers and students. Schools should never be used as venues for advocacy of political views or aspirations, not to say arenas for political contests. Adults should not instil in students their personal views on specific political issues, or cause them to take part in any political activities by coercion or induction. Otherwise, they are putting politics before education. Class boycott will only interrupt the normal operation of schools and take away the learning opportunity of students. The spread of social tension in schools will affect the learning spirit of students, which is by no means conducive to the healthy development of our next generation.
Under the present circumstances, many parents are worried that their children might be hated, bullied or even threatened with violence at school owing to their different stances and views or the occupations and backgrounds of their family members. Both the Government and schools have maintained a “zero tolerance” stance against any form of bullying in schools. For the sake of protecting our children, I am appealing to all sectors of the community for not bringing political disputes into schools. Schools should also maintain close communication and co-operation with parents, with a view to providing a safe and harmonious learning environment for students to study without distractions.
To put an end to the confrontation so that society can return to rationality as soon as possible, the Chief Executive proposed to set up a platform for dialogue last Tuesday (20 August). The platform will provide a means for the principal officials to directly communicate with people from all walks of life and with different political stances and backgrounds, listen to their views, understand the problem that they are facing and gauge their thinking on Hong Kong’s future development, with a view to finding a way out of the present impasse for Hong Kong.
Yesterday (24 August), the Chief Executive met with a number of people who had recently put forward their ideas of building a communication platform in order to obtain their advice on the creation of the platform for dialogue to ensure that we could engage the public in communication in a more effective, diversified and extensive manner.
With the greatest sincerity, the Government will engage in honest dialogue with people from all walks of life in order to listen to their views modestly with an open mind. It is earnestly hoped that calmness will be restored in society so that we can, through sincere dialogues, explore a possible way forward together and rebuild mutual trust. By doing so, Hong Kong will be able to move forward again.