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Cross border students worry about prolonged travelling time, expired travel documents as school resumes, survey finds

With Form 3 to 5 students going back to school today in Hong Kong, many cross border students are still stranded in the mainland, and their families have much to worry about.

With three service centres in Shenzhen serving cross border families and students, International Social Service Hong Kong Branch (ISS-HK) conducted a survey via a questionnaire and online groups. 5,000 sets of questionnaires were received, and the Agency was able to talk to 1,000 cross border parents to learn about their concerns on the pandemic and class resumption arrangements, and their actual needs. Results of the survey are as follows:

Insufficient operating border points

Over 70 percent (73%) of the interviewees said their children did not use Lok Ma Chau or Shenzhen Bay ports for going to schools in Hong Kong before the virus outbreak, and around 50 percent (46%) said their children would need to spend an extra hour or more on commuting if they could only use those two checkpoints which are in operation. Parents hope that more border points, especially those at Lo Wu and Man Kam To, can be open again soon.

Expired travel documents amidst quarantine measures

Over 1,000 interviewees said that their children’s travel documents have expired, with over 80 percent (84%) attributing it to the parents themselves having no effective visas to visit Hong Kong for the needed procedures. Many do not have a place to stay in Hong Kong and have financial difficulties, making them unable to help their children renew their documents as guardians while the 14-day compulsory quarantine is in place.

Higher risks of infection as school resumes

Over 70 percent (72%) of the interviewees worry that their children may have a higher chance of being infected as their daily commuting is long. Another 60 percent and more (61%) worry that the children may be more exposed to the virus in crowd gatherings within schools.

Concern on learning and growing progress

Over 80 percent (83%) worry that their children are lagging behind in their learning and hope schools can help. They are also concerned about other growth needs of their children, among which 40 percent think that their children’s social skills development has been affected, and 30 percent hope that schools will provide support for students’ emotion issues, especially those in primary schools.

Appeal to governments in Hong Kong and Shenzhen to answer their needs

Over 80 percent (85%) hope that cross border parents be exempted from the compulsory quarantine measures in both Hong Kong and Shenzhen. Over half or those interviewed expressed hopes that valid visas can be issued to them for bringing their children to school daily and also for handling emergency issues. Parents also hope that China Travel Service would handle students’ expired travel documents with flexibility and allow the students to cross the borders in the interim.

Other suggestions

Many cross border families’ finances are given a heavy blow in the pandemic, and most are unable to benefit from relief aids from NGOs due to their special nature. These parents struggle to pay for extra expenses incurred during this period, such as fees for health tests and quarantine, and buying face masks and santilising supplies. Around 30 percent (27%) would like to receive financial aid. Meanwhile, over 30 percent (34%) wish that class resumption would be delayed for all so that it would be fair for all students.

“Cross border families all hope that the Education Bureau in Hong Kong will announce details of class resumption arrangements as soon as possible, including immigration procedures for these students in Hong Kong and Shenzhen, so that they can better prepare for them. Most parents put safety of their children first, while their learning progress are also among their top priorities. They hope the Bureau can be as fair as possible with its measures and assist this specific group of students to go back to school. They also hope the government department can help make sure that cross border students receive effective online learning even if they must stay home when school resumes in Hong Kong, so that they don’t lag too much behind in their studies,” said Iris Liu, Programme Director of Cross Boundary and Inter-country service serving cross border students.

ISS-HK has been providing online learning support and a series of activities on students’ growth and parent-child relationships. Over 300 sessions serving over 6,000 people have been held since February. Please reach out to us for enquiry and referrals:

Whatsapp : 68168165

Wechat: iss13268168165