Students in Hong Kong have not been in school since before the Chinese New Year holiday, when the city raised its response level to the Coronavirus outbreak to "emergency". Students had previously been due to return to lessons on March 16, but today (Tuesday) the Education Bureau (EDB) extended this suspension of all classes until the end of the Easter holidays, until at least April 20.
News of the extended school closures follows the EDB's announcement that all international schools will receive a one-off HKD 20,000 grant towards cleaning and safeguarding their campuses.
The EDB is awarding a total of HKD 42 million to around 2,200 local and international schools in Hong Kong to "help them replenish their epidemic prevention equipment (such as masks, thermometers, etc) or clean their school premises and pay for other expenses related to epidemic prevention." Local primary and secondary schools will receive grants of between HKD 15,000-25,000 each.
The Education Bureau (EDB) has also increased the one-off student grant of HKD 2,500 – available to students at kindergarten, primary and secondary schools in Hong Kong – by HKD 1,000. The deadline to apply for a student grant has been extended until March 20.
Students at both local and international schools, including Direct Subsidy Scheme schools and English Schools Foundation schools, can apply for a student grant for the 2019-20 academic year. Holders of student visas for entry into Hong Kong for studies, holders of a Form of Recognisance issued by the Immigration Department, and students attending evening schools are all ineligible for the grant. Read more here.
The EDB says: "We understand that many parents have to make the usual education-related payments for their children during the class suspension. Some may have to pay for reading and learning materials or e-learning devices for their children.
"To alleviate parents' burden, a funding of about HKD 900 million will be allocated from the Anti-epidemic Fund to be set up shortly to provide an additional HKD 1,000 to each recipient of the Student Grant for the 2019/20 school year, i.e. increase from HKD 2,500 to HKD3,500."
Classes remain suspended for students at all schools, including those run by the English Schools Foundation (ESF). However, as reported by WSA last week, the EDB is allowing international schools to reopen their campuses to graduating students – those studying GCSEs, A Levels and the IBDP – for tutorials and assessments. This decision was made it recognises that the school closures “have great impact on students in Hong Kong” compared to their peers sitting the same exams overseas. Read more here.
This is the second time in the 2019-20 academic year that international schools have been told to close; all classes were suspended for up to one week in November 2019 due to the ongoing protests across Hong Kong.
During the closure period, the EDB has urged schools to "make good use of e-learning, such as providing students with useful learning materials through emails, school websites, e-learning platforms and other effective means".
The EDB has also suspended and postponed all students' exchange programmes in Mainland China, and has "called on tertiary institutions to make similar arrangements for internship and exchange activities".