9th October 2013
HK Mother: I’m Prepared to Fight for My Son in the Next Ten Years
The battle between Hong Kong and China parents for kindergarten school place continues. A mother who lives in Sheung Shui got pregnant in 2011, the peak of anchor baby wave. She had to compete with the mothers of anchor babies throughout her pregnancy (pregnancy check up and labour), recently she had her first “street camping” experience just to get a kindergarten application form for her son. She also said that she’s prepared to “queue” for another ten years for her son to get the basic resources.
Mrs Pang gave birth to her son in 2011, and since then she’s become a “queuing mother”, “the government encourages people to have children, but it fails to support the parents and the children with their basic needs.”
Since she first found out her pregnancy, Mrs pang started her “life of queuing up”. For pregnancy check up, she had to queue up for at least two to three hours at Fanling Maternal & Child Health Centre, which is occupied by Chinese (Mainlanders). Each Chinese mother (mothers of anchor babies) will be accompanied by four to five Chinese relatives or friends, “you wanted to have a seat? They wouldn’t let you. They also block the corridors with their suitcases and luggage, you could bearly stand there.”
Mrs Pang gave birth in a public hospital, there were eight beds in the room she stayed and seven of them were taken by anchor baby mothers, “the anchor mothers are best at calling the nurses. They’d ask for nurses to help with the tiniest thing, as if the nurses are there to help them only,” Mrs Pang recalled.
Mrs Pang said that her best decision after she was discharged was to change the brand of formula powder for her son to an Australian brand that is not popular amongst Chinese, and made a lucky escape as she didn’t have to search for it everywhere.
Pang said that the problem anchor babies has caused public outcry in 2011, but the HKSAR Government simply ignored the problem. “I could not possibly consider having an abortion because of this (government not tackling anchor babies problem). I was prepared that there were lots of people giving birth that year, but didn’t expect getting a kindergarten space for my son would be this difficult!”
There is a kindergarten right next to her home in Sheung Shui, which is most convenient for her and her son, but she sighed, “the queues for kindergartens at public housing estates would be a thousand people long! This is simply ridiculous!” Mrs Pang heard that there are 30 students in each K1 class at the nearest kindergarten to her home, but only three out of 30 are Hong Kong students, others are anchor babies, causing her hesitation.
“I didn’t want to be seen as discriminating them (anchor students), but our language, behaviours and cultures are just very different from theirs! When you see them defecating in the flower planters in the public, you would not want your kids to be studying with them.” Pang has applied a number of kindergartens for her son, but none of them are in Sheung Shui, an area which is most affected by anchor kindergarten students.
Mrs Pang went to Tai Po, a different school district, to “camp overnight” to get an application form for her son – her first street camping experience, and queued from 11pm to 9am.
Pang said that from bed in hospital labour ward, formula powder to kindergarten school, she’s got first hand experience about all the challenges and all the people of Hong Kong have witnessed them. Pang is prepared to “queue up” again for her son when he’s eligible for primary school, “I don’t believe the Hong Kong SAR government would be able to do anything in the next few years. I’ve planned for my son in the next ten years. Hopefully, I would not have to queue up for secondary school place then.”
The shortage of kindergarten school places in North New Territories have triggered the local parents’ anti-anchor babies sentiment. Benjamin Yung Po-shu, Education Bureau’s Chief Education Officer (New Territories), said that the education sector has agreed on the principle of “same district education” (children from each district have priority to study in the same district), and have proposed a few solutions for problem of “one student occupying multiple school places”. In terms of execution, however, nothing concrete has been agreed. Central school place allocation has not be agreed either.
Ms Kwok Chor-kiu, Chairlady of Tai Po and North District Early Childhood Education (ECE) Principal Association, said that children within the district will have the priority to be admitted in kindergartens within the district, and the next on the list will be students from other districts in Hong Kong, and last will be anchor children. However, she said that these are all based on parents’ choice. Some kindergartens use Cantonese as the “solution”: Mrs Pang who lives in Sheung Shui received the interview notification from Fangling Elite Kindergarten which says that the interview will be mainly conducted in Cantonese (the mother tongue to local Hong Kongers). Pang commented, “if the people of Hong Kong remained silent and did not protest about the current situation, the government would have pretended nothing has gone wrong!”
Another Hong Kong mother Ms Shum went to Sheung Shui Fung Kai Kindergarten to get enrollment application. As she has taken a number of days off to queue up for application forms, her boss began to get a bit annoyed. Shum accused that Eddie Ng Hak-kim, Secretary for Education, has been lying that there is sufficient school places in the North New Territories, “there are so many anchor children here! He should have come to queue up with us to experience it!”
Parents of anchor children have complained too. Mr Wang from Hunan said that it is unfair to use Cantonese to interview children because there is no time for him and his wife to teach their child, “we came to Hong Kong to give birth because of the great benefits, but the standard (of benefits) has falled now. If my child does not get admitted, we will consider going to other countries.”
Front all the discontent in the public, Secretary Eddie Ng said in a radio interview yesterday that he cannot “guarantee” that all the children in North District can study in schools within the district. He said that he cannot guarantee parents that their children can attend their preferred schools or nearby schools as it is up to the schools when it comes to admission.
Below is one of the many Simplified Chinese language advertisements posted in Sheung Shui Wai Chow Public School found by a nearby resident. The advertisement says that “nanny” will charge US$1,100 to US$1,200 for looking after a child including meals and accommodation in order to secure school places within the district (using an address in one district to apply for school place within the district, increasing the opportunity of securing admission under the newly proposed guideline of giving priority to “same district students”).