The government’s announcement that it will replace a training centre for people with disabilities with a college for civil servants has sparked concerns that the quality of education for future students will be affected.
In her second policy address last Wednesday, Chief Executive Carrie Lam said a 11,000 square-metre site in Kwun Tong will be used for the civil service college. The site currently hosts the Shine Skills Centre under the Vocational Training Council, which must hand over the site to the government by the fourth quarter of 2021.
The Shine Skills Centre serves people with disabilities aged 15 or above. It provides courses such as baking, gift-making, and digital photography to enhance students’ chances of employment.
Mr Ngan, a parent of a student at Shine Skills Centre, called in to RTHK’s morning radio programme on Friday – which was attended by Secretary for the Civil Service Joshua Law – and said that he only heard of the plan on the day of the policy address.
“When the chief executive announced the policy address, my son told me after school on the same day that he received a notice that the centre will be closed in three years… I felt it was strange – why would the centre issue the notice right after the policy address? That means it was all arranged in advance that the centre will be sacrificed,” Ngan said.
Ngan said his son will leave the centre in two years so his family will not be affected, but he said the plan will affect many parents with disabled children who need to take the rehabilitation bus service, calling the government plan “exploitation” of future students.
“They live quite far away. I know that some of them live in Ma On Shan. And now you suddenly tell them they have to go to school in faraway places like Tuen Mun or Pok Fu Lam [where two other centres are located], it will affect them a lot,” he said.
“Even if they can go to school there, the Tuen Mun and Pok Fu Lam centres will have to accept a lot of new students at the same time, so how can you allocate resources to make it work? This is acting irresponsibly towards the disadvantaged.”
A staff member at the Shine Skills Centre also called in to say that he only found out about the plan last Wednesday.
“It was very sudden… We felt it was an unfair policy. [The government] is eliminating 330 places for students at the centre, but there were no appropriate arrangements made [for them],” the staff member said.
Law said in response that items in the policy address must be kept secret until it is delivered. But he said that relevant departments communicated with the Vocational Training Council and it knew of the plan beforehand.
“I believe the Vocational Training Council has communicated with the management of the centre over future arrangements. I encourage the Vocational Training Council to strengthen communication with the management, students, parents and future students to ensure a smooth transition,” he said.
Law said the government will provide a larger integrated vocational training centre in urban areas in September 2021, which can potentially provide placement for students from the Kwun Tong centre.
But Labour Party lawmaker Fernando Cheung told Ming Pao that the upcoming centre will focus on training skills such as sealing letters and washing cars. He said these were lower level skills compared to those taught at the Kwun Tong centre, and it would be like “going backwards” for students.