Spate of student suicides brings demand for action
Updated: 2016-03-11 08:13
By Ming Yeung in Hong Kong(HK Edition)
The Education Bureau (EDB) plans to adopt five measures to prevent student suicides - following the alarming revelation that four students had taken their lives in five days in Hong Kong.
A 20-year-old University of Hong Kong student was the latest victim. He leapt to his death from a building rooftop in Wong Tai Sin on Wednesday.
The city has recorded about 20 cases of student suicides since September. That is double the number of cases since last school year.
Secretary for Education Eddie Ng Hak-kim described himself as "deeply concerned and distressed" about the rash of student suicides.
After meeting experts from the education sector on Thursday afternoon, Ng said the EDB will form a committee comprising representatives of parents, schools, professionals and government officials. This is to ascertain the causes of suicides and to come up with recommendations of preventive measures within six months. An interim report will also be required.
For the time being, education psychologists and counseling staff will be deployed to schools upon request to provide talks for teachers.
There will be five district-based workshops in March and April to increase schools' knowledge and awareness of handling such a crisis.
Ng will meet with primary school representatives on Friday and representatives from the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) on March 15. Five students from CUHK have taken their own lives since last September. Two other students attending higher education institutions have committed suicide during the same period.
Tik Chi-yuen, chief executive of the Hong Kong Institute of Family Education, proposed that the administration provide extra funding to schools to organize more parent-child activities to enhance bonding. After all, he said, the family was the basic safety net for all children. More funding is also needed to recruit more social workers when necessary.
Tik added that the current system focuses solely on students' grades, putting students into a highly competitive environment.
A lawmaker representing the education sector, Ip Kin-yuen, however, demanded to know whether the cause of student suicides came from the education system or from family issues.
"Drawing from evidence, we see that academic issues play an important role," Ip commented, adding that today's over-anxious parents might have contributed to the prevalence of youth suicides.
Ip said pressure on teachers and students could be alleviated by lifting the threat of school closures resulting from falling student enrolments.
"If the EDB adjusts its policy to allow schools to implement small-class teaching, teachers will be freed from the stress and be able to give each student more (of the) attention they deserve," Ip said.
He said there was also a need to look into the family backgrounds of young victims of suicide to see whether poverty was a cause.
(HK Edition 03/11/2016 page7)