Hong Kong’s Education Bureau slammed for delay in suspending classes amid chaos in the city

Kanis Leung

pHong Kong’s education officials came under fire on Wednesday for suspending classes only after three straight days of travel mayhem./p

pThe Education Bureau announced the closure of kindergartens, primary and secondary schools on Thursday, citing safety concerns a day after the city’s leader a href="https://www.scmp.com/topics/carrie-lam"Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor/a refused to make the move to avoid falling into the “protesters’ trap”./p

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pMost of the city’s universities and other higher educational institutions also announced there would be no classes on Thursday, with at least 10 suspending them for the rest of the week./p

pPrincipals and teachers slammed the government for making a wrong judgment previously and school management staff said the closure should be extended until the end of the week./p

div class="blockquote-quote"The education sector has been exhausted physically and mentally to an extreme point/div

div class="blockquote-author"Teddy Tang, chairman of the Hong Kong Association of the Heads of Secondary Schools/div

pAn Education Bureau spokesman on Wednesday insisted it had always prioritised the safety and benefits of students and all campuses would remain open for parents in need during the suspension./p

p“Violent protesters have widely damaged society. Other than causing dangerous road conditions, some nanny vans have also been maliciously damaged,” he said./p

pStudents should stay home and stop joining illegal activities, the bureau added./p

pimg title="Anti-government protesters set up roadblocks in Central. Photo: Nora Tam" alt="Anti-government protesters set up roadblocks in Central. Photo: Nora Tam" width="660" height="385" data-resolution="2" src="https://cdn.i-scmp.com/sites/default/files/d8/images/methode/2019/11/14/62dee2a0-0603-11ea-a68f-66ebddf9f136_1320x770_003919.JPG" class="caption" //p

pThe protests, triggered by a now-withdrawn a href="https://www.scmp.com/topics/hong-kong-extradition-bill"extradition bill/a, have entered their sixth month. Mostly kept to weekend actions, demonstrators have been out since Monday aiming to grind the city to a halt./p

pAround 60 schools already announced they would close their doors on Tuesday, according to the government./p

pTeddy Tang Chun-keung, chairman of the Hong Kong Association of the Heads of Secondary Schools, noted that more than 100 institutions had suspended classes on Wednesday, with others ending them earlier./p

h3a href="https://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/education/article/3036785/more-40-cent-hong-kong-secondary-school-students-highly"More than 40 per cent of Hong Kong secondary school students ‘highly stressed’/a/h3

p“The education sector has been exhausted physically and mentally to an extreme point. It can no longer withstand that, including teachers and principals,” he said./p

pThe association said lessons should be cancelled on Friday as well, while some schools had already made that decision on their own./p

pIt said the bureau was responsible for safeguarding the safety of teachers and pupils, and the government should be the one to make the call on class suspension instead of the schools./p

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p“If [the government] did not make a wrong judgment, we do not need to call a press conference today,” said the group’s former chief Lee Suet-ying./p

pLee added the group had received complaints from members that their students in uniforms who were not wearing masks were stopped and searched by police on Wednesday morning. “It is also a potential danger to students,” she said./p

pThe Hong Kong Professional Teachers’ Union also hit out at the bureau for making a late decision, saying it should apologise to the education sector./p

h3a href="https://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/politics/article/3037604/hong-kong-protests-more-fourfold-surge-under-two-months" target="_blank"Fourfold surge in number of school students held over protests/a/h3

p“The bureau has been very unprofessional and irresponsible, neglecting the safety of students and overriding education with politics,” it said in a statement./p

pThe union said in a survey conducted on Wednesday morning, 96.7 per cent of 1,379 frontline education workers polled were very dissatisfied with the bureau’s performance./p

pimg title="Students set up roadblocks outside the Baptist University in Kowloon Tong. Photo: Xiaomei Chen" alt="Students set up roadblocks outside the Baptist University in Kowloon Tong. Photo: Xiaomei Chen" width="660" height="385" data-resolution="2" src="https://cdn.i-scmp.com/sites/default/files/d8/images/methode/2019/11/14/7cbe189e-0603-11ea-a68f-66ebddf9f136_1320x770_003919.JPG" class="caption" //p

pCarmen Tse, a 22-year-old kindergarten teacher, who had waited for a minibus for at least 1½ hours amid the morning’s travel chaos, was one of those left frustrated./p

p  “Hong Kong is in such a state … as well as the situation in Chinese University on Tuesday night, I think it is really crazy for people to still go to work now,” she said./p

pTse was referring to the intense clashes between students and police at the Sha Tin campus, where officers fired tear gas rounds even while the university’s vice-chancellor Rocky Tuan Sung-chi was at the scene. In response, students threw petrol bombs./p

h3a href="https://www.scmp.com/week-asia/politics/article/3037599/stay-or-go-hong-kongs-international-students-pack-their-bags"Stay or go? Hong Kong’s international students pack their bags amid protest chaos/a/h3

pThe prestigious university decided to call off its first term early on Wednesday for safety reasons./p

pThe Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) and Baptist University (BU) had cancelled all on-campus lessons. Online learning would be provided at HKUST, while BU may adopt a similar approach for some classes./p

pHKUST, along with nine others universities or tertiary education institutions, will suspend classes for the rest of the week./p

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