Coronavirus: clock ticking for students trapped in Hubei desperate to sit university entrance exams in HK

27-Feb-2020 Intellasia | South China Morning Post | 6:02 AM Print This Post

Tony Lau could be forced to give up his dream of becoming a doctor if he cannot get back to Hong Kong in time for the Diploma of Secondary Education (DSE) university entrance exams a very real possibility, given that he is trapped in Wuhan.

The 19-year-old DSE candidate, who agreed to be interviewed using a pseudonym, is among those urging the government to settle on an exact date for sending charter flights to rescue city residents in mainland China’s Hubei province, home to Wuhan and epicentre of the deadly coronavirus epidemic.

Hong Kong’s administration announced on Monday that they would send chartered flights to bring back about 2,700 residents scattered across 37 cities in Hubei, with about 450 in Wuhan scheduled for the first flight, though a time frame was not yet available.

“I feel helpless. Being stranded in Hubei for a month, the government had no concrete plans to bring us back,” Lau told the Post on Tuesday. “I’m also really worried about [getting infected], since Hubei province has many infected cases.”

Lau visited Wuhan with his father on January 22 to visit his 85-year-old grandmother during the Lunar New Year holiday, planning to stay for about a week. The day after they arrived, the city was placed on lockdown.

The Form Six student, who moved from Wuhan to Hong Kong with his family more than three years ago and studies at a secondary school in Kowloon, said his family had tried in vain to get help from the Immigration Department and the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office in Wuhan.

“According to the exam schedule, the first subject that I have to take part in is the chemistry written exam on March 28,” Lau said, adding that he must get back to Hong Kong by mid-March to do so as he will first be required to observe a 14-day mandatory quarantine period.

“I had only brought a few exercise books in physics and chemistry [to Wuhan]. My study plans have been disrupted, and it’s also not very effective trying to study here,” he said.

Hong Kong’s exam authorities said special arrangements would be arranged for those unable to take the exam, using a formulation that would award them an exam score based on their grades at school. However, the highest score they could earn would be a 5 under the exam’s seven-level grading system.

“The arrangements are unfair. For some subjects I was expecting to score a level 5* or 5** (the highest and second-highest scores possible),” Lau, who often gets high scores in mathematics, physics and chemistry at school, lamented.

He hopes to study medicine at a top local university, but is now he worried that a score artificially dampened by the system for absentee students means he could have to give up his dream.

“I really hope to take the DSE exams to [get into university],” he said. “I feel like there is no [other] way I can control my own destiny.”

Leo Chan Man-well, a community officer at the Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions who has been assisting Lau, urged the government to lay out detailed plans to bring back those stranded and provide further help to students to ease their worries.

I really hope to take the DSE exams to [get into university]. I feel like there is no [other] way I can control my own destiny

Tony Lau, a Hong Kong student trapped in Wuhan

Education sector lawmaker and Professional Teachers’ Union vice-president Ip Kin-yuen said at least three DSE candidates were known to be stranded in Hubei, calling for the administration to help them return to Hong Kong for the exams.

Another Hong Kong resident stuck in Wuhan, who only gave her surname Li, 52, was staying with her 14-year-old son who attends school in Australia. She said schools there had started in early February, leaving her son feeling left out and unable to catch up, as some websites necessary for online learning were inaccessible in mainland China.

“He had been crying in secret, I’ve spotted that a few times. I feel really saddened, as a mother I can do nothing to help him,” Li told the Post.

Li visited Wuhan with her son on January 11 to visit her parents, and has now been unable to leave for more than a month. She also pleaded for the Hong Kong government to decide on dates to bring them back on charter flights so they could return to their normal lives.


Category: Hong Kong

Print This Post