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Influenza: Class suspensions: the Budget
With the temperature making abrupt fluctuations recently and with the influenza epidemic raging ferociously, please keep warm and take good care of yourself and your loved ones.
Recently, concern has been focused on class suspension of kindergartens and child care centres (hereunder collectively referred to as kindergartens) due to serious influenza outbreaks. Class suspension is not something that can be or should be allowed to become a regular feature. We must carefully review the situation and respond appropriately.
The most proactive approach is to ensure that we have effective epidemic prevention measures. The vaccination rate of our small children is below 30% at the moment. This must be raised. The medical sector advocates that Government’s vaccination scheme be extended to kindergartens. To this, the Government should respond enthusiastically and positively. At the same time, fellow workers in kindergartens and parents should also play a useful role: stepping up physical exercises of our small children and helping them to develop a good habit of personal hygiene. These are important components of effective influenza prevention.
Class suspension this time is rather massive in respect of kindergartens: more than 200 of them were involved on the very first day of class suspension. At first, the Government only required kindergartens to individually announced their class suspension. I disagreed. I requested the Government to centralize the issue of a full list of kindergartens whose classes are suspended, so as to avoid confusion in communication and to avoid creating extra burdens on kindergartens. I am much pleased to note that the Government readily acceded to my request and issued a full list right on the evening of the very same day of my request.
I also queried the suspension criterion adopted this time: changing from ‘20% of children being infected’ to ‘3 cases of inflection within 4 days’. How has the new criterion been arrived at? Is it appropriate? And will it be our long-term criterion in the future? To all these questions, the Government should provide answers.
Extending the scope of vaccination requires additional manpower and funding from the Government. I hope that the Government will, in its Budget to be published on 27 February, increase financial provisions so as to ensure adequate resources and manpower to tackle the influenza epidemic. Apart from this, I have, as I have done all along, compiled a ‘Preview of Expenditures on Education and Policy Recommendations’ and submitted to the Government 35 recommendations on education dealing with different educational groups. For example, for kindergartens, I recommended implementing a salary structure for kindergarten teachers and increasing the number of teachers and administration staff members. For primary schools, secondary schools and special schools, I recommended continuously increasing teacher-to-class ratios, pegging all teaching posts at GM/APSM level, improving the establishment and salary structures of middle- and high-level administration staff. For post-secondary education and vocational education, I recommended increasing school places and extending the scope of financial support in tuition fees for students taking self-financing programmes, etc. It is my hope that the Financial Secretary will, having regard to the importance of individual policies and our financial capabilities, make necessary financial provisions to improve our education and bring benefits to our students.
You are most welcome to have a look at the summary of the ‘Preview’ and let me have your views on the ‘Budget’. They can be emailed to [email protected] . With the Year of the Pig approaching, may I wish you happiness, good health and great success in your endeavours!
Representative of Hong Kong Professional Teachers’ Union
in Legislative Council,
Hon IP Kin-yuen
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葉建源議員辦事處 Office of Legislative Councillor Ip Kin Yuen (Education Constituency)
Corresponding Address: Room 919, Legislative Council Complex, 1 Legislative Council Road, Central, Hong Kong