Veteran educator defends Education Bureau's handling of school with 'permanently absent' pupils

A veteran educator placed on the board of a troubled primary school to help it sort out various governance issues has defended the Education Bureau’s handling of the situation even as the institution becomes embroiled in a controversy over “permanently absent” pupils.

Government-subsidised Hing Tak School was accused on Tuesday of exaggerating the number of pupils enrolled in order to avoid a funding cut. The bureau in turn came under the spotlight for its management of the problem.

Secretary for Education Kevin Yeung Yun-hung said in response that the bureau, which learned of the issue in February, had already stepped up investigations and appointed eight experienced educators to the school’s board to strengthen supervision.

Former principal Lui Ki-cheung, one of the eight, said on a radio programme on Wednesday that he had looked into the bureau’s findings, which were “very objective”.

“We believe the Education Bureau is very serious and detailed and followed procedures to slowly investigate the matter,” he said.

Hong Kong school with permanently absent pupils investigated

Lui, who worked in the former Education Department for 33 years and was a principal who helped a secondary school solve similar problems, added that the bureau had spent a lot of time meeting teachers.

The school’s problems were revealed when some of its teachers and the Professional Teachers’ Union complained to the bureau in February that 21 pupils had been absent for up to two years but remained on the student roster. Many of these students live across the border.

While Hing Tak principal Chan Cheung-ping claimed the students were on sick leave and handling family matters, slamming the bureau for “having a verdict before a trial is carried out”, three mainland parents approached by Ming Pao newspaper confirmed that their children had already given up their places.

Learning, the hard way

On Tuesday, Yeung said initial investigations by the bureau found that the school had four main problems: the discrepancy in the roster; the school not following normal procedures in the firing of two teachers; financial problems; and a large number of teachers taking sick leave for a long period of time because of physical discomfort.

He added that after giving the school warnings and serious advice – without achieving much progress – the bureau had appointed members into the school’s board to help with management issues.

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