It is really ironic that while Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying has said time and again that local and community issues are always on top of his agenda because they directly affect the daily lives of his fellow citizens, his subordinates just keep passing the buck.
Take the case of Secretary for Education Eddie Ng Hak-kim.
Despite repeated calls for the renovation and rebuilding of run-down schools that are way below the standards issued by the Buildings Department, the Education Bureau under his leadership has continued to turn a deaf ear to this pressing issue that could mean life and death for our kids.
In order to get a first-hand knowledge of how bad the condition of these school premises is, I have been visiting dozens of these schools myself over the past few months, and found that the situation is worse than I thought.
Many of these schools were built in the ’60s or ’70s, and are constantly haunted by the imminent threat of structural failure.
The recent roof collapse of an amenities building at the City University has again renewed concerns about the safety of these old school premises.
However, the Education Bureau has remained as indifferent as ever to such a grave public concern.
In order to address the problem and get these schools fixed, I have decided to force the issue and prompt the government to act accordingly by building up pressure both within the Legislative Council and in the education sector.
And to my surprise, it worked!
For example, after having failed to get special government funding for renovation for years, two run-down schools finally got their funding requests approved recently by the Education Bureau through our concerted efforts, indicating that the government just won’t act unless you turn up the heat.
Likewise, the education sector is deeply frustrated with the Education Bureau’s inaction over the safety of the green roofs of more than a hundred primary and secondary schools across our city.
Again, to address the issue, I have decided to go it alone and help these schools by arranging for volunteer structural engineers to inspect them to make sure they are structurally safe.
The latest breakthrough came last week at a Legco meeting, during which Secretary for Development Paul Chan Mo-po, at my request, agreed to order the Buildings Department to finish inspections of all schools with green roofs across the territory by the end of this summer holiday.
The Hong Kong Professional Teachers Union has already met with officials from the Buildings Department to reflect the opinions of the education sector over this issue.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on June 23.
Translation by Alan Lee
[Chinese version 中文版]
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