Following is a question by the Hon Yeung Yiu-chung and a written reply by the Secretary for Education and Manpower, Professor Arthur K C Li, in the Legislative Council today (May 21):
It is reported that since the Government announced the suspension of kindergartens on March 29 this year, some kindergartens encounter financial crisis due to the reduction in tuition income. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(a) of the details of the reduction in tuition income of all kindergartens in the territory during April and May this year; and
(b) whether it will assist kindergartens in resolving their financial crisis; if it will, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?
(a) With the outbreak of Atypical Pneumonia (AP), all kindergartens had had their classes suspended since March 29. While some kindergartens claimed that there were parents who failed to pay the school fees for the period, some parents had paid them as usual. Since kindergartens are not public sector schools, they are not required to submit information on their collection of monthly school fees. Therefore, there is no readily available information on the actual situations for kindergartens. The Education and Manpower Bureau (EMB) will only be able to assess further the impact of class suspension on school fee income for the months of April and May after all kindergartens have resumed classes on May 19.
(b) Since kindergartens are not public sector schools, the Government will not provide direct subsidy from public funds to ease their financial burdens. However, in order to help kindergartens get over the possible financial problems they may be facing under the effect of AP, the following relief measures have been implemented:
(1) a letter was issued to all parents through the kindergartens appealing for continuous payment of the approved school fees during the period of class suspension;
(2) EMB will continue to disburse funds to kindergartens under the Kindergarten Fee Remission Scheme (excluding those that have decided to waive school fees) and the Kindergarten Subsidy Scheme for the period of class suspension and until the end of the current school year;
(3) the deadline for application for kindergarten fee remission has been extended to assist families not being able to pay their children's school fees due to financial difficulties brought by the AP outbreak. Parents in need may apply to the Student Financial Assistance Agency; and
(4) a letter was sent to the Real Estate Developers Association of Hong Kong requesting their support to grant concession of rent or management fee/air-conditioning charges to their kindergarten tenants to help them tide over the difficulties.
Moreover, the Government has provided materials for preventing AP, including surgical face masks, ear thermometers, probe covers and chlorine tablets, to kindergarten staff and pupils. The Hong Kong Jockey Club Charities Trust has also donated a special grant to subsidize all non-profit-making (NPM) kindergartens in providing a clean and hygienic learning environment to teachers and pupils on resumption of classes. Starting from May 2003, each NPM kindergarten can receive a monthly grant of $5,000 for a period of three months.
EMB has announced that kindergartens will resume classes on May 19. This will help reduce the problems caused by class suspension such as parents refusing to pay school fees and pupils dropping out. EMB will continue to keep a close watch on the development of the issue and the effectiveness of the above measures, and consider other relief measures where necessary.
End/Wednesday, May 21, 2003