School village

New concept in local education

By J. Chun

Courtesy of Yuen Hoi Fat
Some $300,000 per year is not enough to run 3.75-hectare school village.


Hong Kong has taken the unprecedented step of setting up a school village in Tsz Wan Shan. It cost about $400 million
and opened this term.

The village is a cluster of buildings including a secondary school, Po Leung Kuk Celine Ho Yam Tong College; and three
primary schools, namely Po Leung Kuk Grandmont Primary School, Tsz Wan Shan Catholic Primary School and St. Patrick's
Catholic Primary School.

Yuen Hoi Fat is the project manager of the school building section of the Education Department.

"Owing to limited space in Hong Kong and increasing numbers of students, we have to utilize school areas efficiently," said
Mr. Yuen.

The village provides 4,300 school places on 3.75-hectares of land.

By contributing their own spare areas, all of the schools can enjoy a football court, two covered basketball courts, a garden
and an art gallery, according to Mr. Yuen.

However, the annual government funding of $300,000 for the shared area is thought to be inadequate.

Mak Tim Leung, principal of Po Leung Kuk Celine Ho Yam Tong College, analyzed the use of this $300,000.

"One-third is used to pay for regular maintenance of the shared facilities; another one-third is used to pay for electricity charges.

"The remaining one-third comprising less than $8,000 a month is not enough to pay for the salaries of full-time security
guards, and the expenses of cleaning and gardening.¡¨

It is estimated that each school may need to contribute an extra $100,000, Mr. Mak said.

"The resources from the government are so inadequate that we have to dig into the schools¡¦savings to finance the operations
of the school village."

Mr. Yuen of the Education Department suggested that the schools could apply for an increase in funding, if necessary.

He said that the school development section will examine whether the schools are eligible for an increase in funding and
determine the amount to be granted.

Mr. Mak said the lack of flexibility was a crucial hindrance to the development of the school village.

He said the managing committee does not have legal status, and it is risky to sign contracts with outsiders without legal protection.

¡§Renting out spaces in the car park, for instance, could be a source of income.

¡§But without legal status, nothing can be done.¡¨

Despite many hindrances, the uniqueness of the school village and its value cannot be neglected.

Mr. Yuen said the village aimed at exchanging different cultures among the schools and cultivating a sense of community.

Mr. Mak said, ¡§We decided to organize an inter-school sports day. Secondary school students and their primary counterparts
will be on the same teams to compete with others.¡¨ This is to develop a sense of community among students.

For cultural exchange, Liu Mo Yin, headmistress of St. Patrick's Catholic Primary School, said, ¡§We have a shared art gallery
where we can display students¡¦work occasionally and show to other schools in the village.¡¨

But there are also disadvantages to running the village.

Mr. Yuen said that inefficiency is an obstacle because time is wasted on reaching consensus from so many staff.

Miss Liu also said that there were problems coordinating resources effectively, maintaining security and keeping the environment clean.