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Private tutors help ease family tension during the pandemic.

Phoebe Chu

University student Ruby Chu Ka-chin’s working hours of doing physical private tutoring has jumped from three hours a week to six, as a mother finds it difficult to manage her ten-year-old son who stays home most of the time during the pandemic.

“My salary has increased from HKD$1,550 to HKD$3,500 a month. My student is a Primary Five pupil, Hei Hei, and his mother has no patience supervising him to do homework and revision with him,” the Business Administration student, who started doing private tutoring in 2021, says. 

“It takes three to four hours for Hei Hei to finish his homework as he cannot stay focused. He becomes even more distracted as he has to attend online classes during the pandemic. He always daydreams and forgets about what I tell him even when I just ask him to recite what I said ten seconds ago,” the 19-years-old says. 

Physical classes in kindergartens and primary schools have been suspended for a few times since 2020. The latest round of suspension started from January 11 until April 19, 2022. 

The private tutor says Hei Hei takes out his Demon Slayer toys to play when his mother is not home during physical tutorial sessions. 

“The mother has no patience teaching her own son. She told me to write down answers on a piece of paper and then she asked her son to copy all of them. I feel like a babysitter rather than a private tutor. My other university friends working as private tutors feel the same way,” she adds.

“I feel like a babysitter rather than a private tutor. My other university friends working as private tutors feel the same way.”

Another private tutor, Coco Ma Wing-Yee, also shares Chu’s experience.

Ma used to work part-time in a restaurant. She now works as a private tutor and her monthly salary has jumped from HKD $2,500 to HKD $3,280 during the pandemic.

“My student is a Primary Five pupil. He keeps playing and I have to ask him to sit down and focus over 10 times in one and a half hours,” the 21-year-old university student says.

Exercise given to Coco Ma Wing-yee’s ten-year-old student. (Photo Courtesy of Coco Ma Wing-yee)

Ma says that her student’s parents leave everything to her and other tutors. 

“The mother has also hired two other tutors to deal with her son’s homework and revision. The ten-year-old child spends more than seven hours on private tutoring every week. His parents only help him to do revision a day before examinations,” the hotel management student says. 

“The parents ask me to stuff the kid with lots of homework. I feel like the parents just want me to do something to occupy their son’s schedule so that they can be free,” she adds. 

“I feel like the parents just want me to do something to occupy their son’s schedule so that they can be free.”

Leung Lai-wa, a mother of three daughters, is one of those parents who seeks help from private tutors so that she can have some free time. 

Leung increases private tutoring sessions for her elder daughter from one and a half hours to three to four hours a week. She spends more than HKD$1,800 a month for her child’s private tutoring sessions.

“I have to shout on top of my lungs to get my kids to do homework,” Leung says.

Her nine-year-old daughter cannot focus on her study whenever physical classes are suspended during the pandemic.

Leung’s elder daughter “distracted” by mask filter on ZOOM while having online class.

“My elder daughter always ignores what I say. She keeps procrastinating and always forgets to do her homework, especially when having online classes, as she thinks uploading her homework is annoying,” Leung says. 

By hiring private tutors, Leung says she feels relieved and she can spend more time on her two younger daughters instead of only struggling with her elder daughter’s schoolwork.

Professor Ma Lai-Chong of the Department of Social Work at the Chinese University of Hong Kong points out that tension grows in families during the pandemic.

“Private tutors can play an important role in easing family tension by arranging some activities for children so they can have something to work on. Private tutoring is not solely for education but to give the parents a break as they can do other stuff when the kids are having tutoring,” Ma says. 

Ma thinks if parents are not “smart enough” to handle tension with their children, they might take it on their children, especially for families with less social resources as they have no one to help them. 

The number of child abuse cases rose to 1,232 in 2021, which is a 60 per cent increase from 2020. In more than half of the cases, the parents were found to be the abusers, according to the Hong Kong Police Force.

Ma points out it is even more difficult for parents working from home to handle their children during the pandemic. 

“As the boundary between their work life and family life becomes vague, it is hard for most parents in Hong Kong to find a separate room to work alone as living space is so limited,” Ma says.

“Children seek for more attention from their stay at home most of the time during the pandemic. They might disturb their parents while they are working,” she adds.

Edited by Leung Pak-hei
Sub-edited by Kajal Aidasani