How a school chief tries to help immigrant students

January 09, 2016 08:03
Kwong Sau-chee, principal of HKSKH Bishop Hall Secondary School, says she derives immense satisfaction from nurturing the minds of young students. Photos: Google Maps, HKEJ

Kwong Sau-chee, principal of HKSKH Bishop Hall Secondary School, is quick with her answers when asked about the source of her inspiration in her chosen profession.

A firm belief in God and her experience as a Sunday school instructor have convinced her that there is nothing more satisfying than serving as a guiding light for young students, she says.

Her school, which is located amid public housing estates of Sau Mau Ping in Kwun Tong district, receives a lot of students from the working class.

Many of the pupils are new immigrants to the city, which makes the educator's work all the more interesting.

"I am concerned about their academic performance. However, teaching and learning would not be possible if we don't first cater for the individuals' living and emotional needs as new members in the neighborhood," says Kwong.

She cited a case in the past when a boy didn't show up for school because his family couldn't afford the uniform and books.

Social workers from the school now meet up with prospective students and their families as soon as the institution receives an enrollment list from the government.

That is aimed at ensuring that financial aid or other support can be provided promptly to needy families.

Bishop Hall Secondary School also organizes orientation camps for new immigrant students, which helps enrich their social circles. Senior students will act as elder brothers and take care of the newbies.

Kwong notes that school often functions as a second home for the kids.

"It should be a place that can make them feel secure and comfortable so as to let them lead a proper campus life," she says.

On top of building a caring atmosphere, another major goal of Bishop Hall School is to equip students with the ability to learn. Information technology is being deployed to stoke the youngsters' curiosity.

Students with a thirst for knowledge will perform well naturally, says Kwong.

The school has set up a motion box mini-theater as video-making has become popular among the youth. One can use smartphones to produce videos and broadcast them on the campus channel.

Under a "News in a Minute" program, students can hone their video production and editing skills and also improve their speech delivery techniques.

Kwong says she is "very impressed and proud" of her students' efforts and dedication.

Generally schoolchildren in Hong Kong spend six years in secondary school before preparing for university admission. Students at Bishop Hall School wouldn't give up even if it means they have to make extra efforts to complete a diploma course to meet university admission requirements.

Kwong has an interesting observation on the behavioral dynamics of school boys. 

"The boys are direct and they are willing to admit their wrongdoings as long as they find your criticism valid. Sometimes they behave immaturely, but if you are in need of assistance, they would show up no matter what," she says.

HKSKH Bishop Hall Secondary School was founded in 1978 as an all-boys school. It was only in 2014 that the institution began admitting girl students.

After the school turned co-ed, the boys, especially the senior ones, are sometimes clueless when it comes to dealing with the presence of girls, chuckles Kwong, adding that some lads act "overly gentlemanly".

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Jan. 4.

Translation by Darlie Yiu

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Students seen with their Lego robots after a school competition. Photo: HKEJ
Students get entrepreneurial experience by managing some stalls during a Chinese New Year fair. Photo: HKEJ
Kwong (center) poses for a picture with participants after an English musical performance. Photo: HKEJ
HKSKH Bishop Hall Secondary School celebrated its 35th anniversary in 2013. Photo: HKEJ

Writer of the Hong Kong Economic Journal