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Hong Kong schools want mainland students

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A number of children on the Chinese mainland now go to school in Hong Kong. It’s good business for schools close to the border. And, as falling birth rates take a toll on enrolment numbers, even schools further away are trying to persuade mainland families to consider the longer commute for their children.

Not quite the usual commute for kids heading to school. Kids living on the Mainland; those born in Hong Kong to Mainland parents or from local families currently residing on the Mainland; making the arduous crossing along the Shenzhen border and into Hong Kong to attend school in nearby Northern District.

A number of children on the Chinese mainland now go to school in Hong Kong.

This mother has been taking her son across the border for two years now.

“We get up at five forty in the morning to have breakfast and make our way from our home in Shenzhen to Hong Kong. I feel the educational system here in Hong Kong is better.”

They make the crossing by foot; on their own in groups, or pack themselves into nanny buses that pile up in busy border points such as Lok Ma Chau. Yet however they choose to come through, they’ve got to show their passports and identity documents, or immigration officials won’t let them through.

Six border crossings here along Shenzhen separating the Mainland over there and right here in Hong Kong where I’m standing, face the daily onslaught of about 20-thousand “cross border pupils” making their way to one of the nearby Hong Kong schools.

Social worker Cheung Yuk-ching has seen it all.

“I’m afraid you have in the coming years when the student numbers are rising, the peak will be in 2017-2018 that several ports have already been saturated so I think the government will have to really think about how to deal with all the rising numbers of students,” said Cheung Yuk-Ching, program director at Cross-Boundary and Intercountry Casework Service.

Yao Dao Primary School is one of them, where a growing number of its students are coming from across the border.

Headmasters’ Association Vice-Chairman Vivian Chung says while the spike in enrolment has been good, the growing number is becoming a burden.

“I think transportation is one of the main problems we’re facing. And every day we need to arrange the kids from the border to the school bus and back and I think security is a school concern,” Vivian Chung said.

Schools further out of the Shenzhen border, in places such as the Eastern District, would kill to have even a sprinkling of Yao Dao’s pupil numbers from the Mainland. This school, about an hour’s drive from the border, is trying to lure cross-border students. Half its enrollees are recent Mainland migrants, but none of them are cross-border pupils.

Falling birth rates in Hong Kong have resulted in a drop in pupil numbers across the city’s schools, leaving some of them in danger of going out of business in a few years.

The influx of cross-border pupils is expected to taper off in five years, when children born in Hong Kong to Mainland parents will have reached school age. Until then, it’s going the distance for these kids wanting school, and for schools in Hong Kong wanting them in.

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