With the worst behind us, our thriving future depends on us moving forward in a spirit of compassion and unity, together in support to our children, teenagers and families.Chairman of Executive Committee
Dr Pamela CHAN WONG Shui, BBS, JP
Our society tentatively embraces a new normal as the pandemic recedes. Yet its debilitating effects linger on for children, young people and families, raising demand for support for physical and mental health, education and living conditions during the transition. The challenges are even more pronounced for children from underprivileged background and those with special educational needs, along with their families.
There have been concerns about students’ readjustment to in-person school life as they returned. People are still worried about infection risk within classroom and during activities. Moreover, prolonged mask-wearing has left many youngsters feeling awkward with face-to-face social situations; the lack of in-person interaction throughout the pandemic has also weakened the bonds between classmates and hindered their social skills. As such, returning to school means dealing with both academic and social pressures at the same time. Frictions among peers have increased, straining their physical and mental well-being as well as their relationships with parents. Some are even struggling to attend school regularly.
Therefore, it has been crucial to collaborate with schools to help students restore healthy social lives. Our frontline colleagues are ramping up relevant programmes with schools in order to lighten the burden on the youngsters and their parents. More groups and events have been organised to help students boost social skills and readjust to in-person interaction, in the hope that they will quickly bond with their peers and the environment to facilitate adaptation. Through a three-way collaboration among family, social workers and schools, our "Project Shine" provides emotional support services to troubled secondary school students who may find routine school life too hard, thereby isolating at home or even attempting self-harm.
We are also paying special attention to children navigating a new stage of learning in the upcoming academic year, such as those leaving kindergarten for primary school – they missed regular classes during the pandemic and will now run into new faces, a new environment, and a new curriculum all at once. Parents, being their main supporters, are also under significant pressure. During the pandemic, our 23 centres launched the "Happy Transition to Primary One – Parent-Child Nurturing Project" and these services are still going strong. We also foster a balance between children and parent involvement. In addition to the provision of peer learning support groups, we have organized parent-child activities to promote the insight, interaction and intimacy of their relationship to aid the transition to primary school.
The needs of students progressing to secondary school are addressed by our "Partnership Programme for Transition to Secondary School" in all 23 centres. For those who will soon take on the Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education (HKDSE), our "DSE Support Club" is ready to provide information and emotional support, for them as well as their parents.
While Hong Kong's economy is recovering in general, wealth inequality issues persist and deteriorate. Employment in grassroots job markets has worsened, aggravating the financial burden on families1 . "Treasure Trove" continues to provide financial support to those in urgent need. In 2022/23, over 190 emergency subsidy applications were granted approval to help families hard-hit by the pandemic.
With the worst behind us, our thriving future depends on us moving forward in a spirit of compassion and unity, together in support to our children, teenagers and families.
1According to statistics on casual employment released by the Census and Statistics Department from January to March 2023, the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 3.1% (115,100 individuals) and the underemployment rate was 1.2% (46,700 individuals).