Community & Education Hong Kong

In Pictures: Short on space, Hong Kong primary school transforms double-decker bus into library

A primary school in Kam Tin has found a creative answer to its space problem: a library on wheels.

Tung Tak School has converted a donated Kowloon Motor Bus (KMB) double-decker into a library, complete with reading spaces and a television. The new facility was unveiled on June 30 and is said to expand on its existing library.

“Our original library was very small. It could only hold seven to eight pupils at a time, so we had to think of a way to resolve this,” principal Philip Wong told HKFP.

kmb bus library

Photo: Jennifer Creery/HKFP.

After coming across the idea online, Wong applied to a KMB programme called “On the Go,” which donates old double-decker buses to people who can come up with unique ways to reuse them.

Limited space

Tung Tak school – which has 180 students and 16 teachers – has struggled to expand since government funding for a new two-storey block fell through over a decade ago. The School Improvement Project was restarted a few years later, but only resulted in a one-storey facility.

Tung Tak school headmaster Philip Wong

Tung Tak School principal Philip Wong. Photo: Jennifer Creery/HKFP.

“It takes a very long time because there are a lot of rules about land, safety and all sorts of things. It has taken almost seven years. We hope that the new part of our building will come in the summer of 2020,” disciplinary mistress Amy Law told HKFP.

See also: Hong Kong heroes: 33 primary school students recognised for making a positive difference in their community.

“For students, space is limited,” she added. “We don’t even have basic rooms or facilities compared to other schools in normal settings. The school library is very small, so that’s why not so many books can be put inside. Even if we want to purchase new books… we don’t have a good place for them to read.”

tung tak school bus

Photo: Jennifer Creery/HKFP.

The school gathers outside in the playground for assemblies due to its lack of appropriate facilities, but rain or hot weather often forces them to cancel, and some children are said to faint in the heat.

“It is affecting the whole spirit and community atmosphere when you get students together and send them an important message,” Law told HKFP.

“We are not asking for a luxury, we’re asking for the basics.”

Community-led

The project was led by teachers and a team of volunteer interior designers, who decorated both decks with shelves and seating areas, while students helped to paint the outside.

Tung Tak school painting bus

Photo: Tung Tak School.

Wong told HKFP that the school had previously struggled to accommodate the number of books.

“Now there is more space and students can come up here to read during their break or lunchtimes. We also have room to do group activities, such as reading stories,” he said.

Nine-year-old pupil Canon Chung told HKFP: “The library is not really that good. If you compare the bus and the old library, the bus is better than the library ten times [over].”

tung tuk school bus

Canon Chung (left) and Kloee Ming (right) outside of the Tung Tak school library bus. Photo: Jennifer Creery/HKFP.

Kloee Ming, 10, also said: “A lot of people were quite excited about the new bus. There was a lot of space there [before] and it was very blank. Now there’s a lot of stuff to do there, like reading books.”

Diversity at its heart

23 to 25 per cent of the pupils are non-Chinese speakers, coming from countries such as Nepal, Pakistan, Canada and India. The school also accommodates students with special educational needs.

Students are given 15 minutes every morning to read and have weekly reading lessons, alternating between Chinese and English to promote dual language learning.

“We are trying to build an accepting and diverse community,” Law told HKFP.

tung tak school bus

Photo: Jennifer Creery/HKFP.

English teacher Miranda Breding told HKFP that the school’s bus library hopes to foster an inclusive atmosphere and bring attention to underfunded schools: “It’s a way to highlight the struggles that low-income smaller schools have to keep up with needs as well as highlight a school that never turns children away and is doing things in a unique way to overcome our limitations.”

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In Pictures: Short on space, Hong Kong primary school transforms double-decker bus into library