In this file photo taken on Sept 1, 2021, students, some accompanied by their parents, return to school in Tseung Kwan O, Hong Kong. (CALVIN NG / CHINA DAILY)
Parents and educators have called for more assistance with the school curriculum and mental care for Hong Kong’s 18,000 cross-boundary students to help them adapt to the upcoming resumption of in-person classes after a three-year hiatus.
Hong Kong resumed quarantine-free travel with the Chinese mainland on Sunday. Earlier, the special administrative region government said it planned to allow cross-boundary students to come back to Hong Kong every day for face-to-face classes, after Lunar New Year starting on Jan 22.
Students will not be subject to the 60,000 daily quota for cross-border travel and won’t need to make reservations in advance. Currently, passengers from the mainland need to provide a negative COVID-19 nucleic acid test result taken within 48 hours of entering Hong Kong. Whether the students will be exempt from the requirement has yet to be confirmed.
On Friday, the International Social Service Hong Kong Branch (ISSHK), a social group that has been supporting cross-border students for many years, conducted a survey about cross-boundary student families’ opinions on the resumption of normal travel.
Of the 1,013 families interviewed for the survey, 92 percent of parents said they will send their children back to Hong Kong every day after in-person classes resume. Meanwhile, 71 percent of families said they are worried that their children may lag behind in learning
Of the 1,013 families interviewed for the survey, 92 percent of parents said they will send their children back to Hong Kong every day after in-person classes resume.
Meanwhile, 71 percent of families said they are worried that their children may lag behind in learning, compared with their local classmates, who attended more in-person classes during the pandemic. Nearly 70 percent of families had to replace or renew their entry permits during the pandemic.
Other concerns they expressed include the risk of contracting the COVID-19 virus and the lack of social skills awareness caused by remote teaching over the past three years.
Over half of the surveyed parents said they want to know what can be done for their children’s studies and mental health once they can travel to Hong Kong normally for study purposes again.
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Chu Xiuyun, a mother of a 13-year-old Secondary Two student, left their home in Shenzhen with her son in 2021 and rented an apartment in Hong Kong’s Tai Po, to be near her son’s school.
Chu said her son can take in-person classes and do more activities with his peers in Hong Kong, which will be better for his growth. She is still considering whether to return to Shenzhen to live as normal travel has resumed, but she hopes the authorities can replace the nucleic acid test requirement for students with a rapid antigen test, to make the students’ cross-border journey more convenient.
Chu Kwok-keung, a Hong Kong lawmaker for the education sector, suggested that the Education Bureau and schools pay more attention to cross-border students’ learning progress and mental health issues, noting that the years long online teaching might have had a negative impact in these areas.
In schools with a large number of cross-border students, Chu said in-school social workers may find it difficult to cope with all the mental health issues of students. Therefore, he suggested that the Education Bureau provide additional subsidies for those schools to hire psychological professionals to offer more assistance.
Chu also said schools could provide remedial courses for cross-border students to help them keep up with the school’s curriculum.
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Parents also hope that the authorities in the mainland and Hong Kong further optimize cross-border arrangements, such as reopening more checkpoints.
Kuang Min’an said he plans to send his boy back to primary school in Sheung Shui, New Territories once the special arrangements for cross-border students are implemented.
Living in Shenzhen’s Luohu district, Kuang said he hopes that the Lo Wu checkpoint in the district will reopen soon so that his son doesn’t have to travel to other districts to cross the border.