A local charity says it is setting up a kindergarten to provide more language learning opportunities for children who don't yet speak Chinese.
Integrated Brilliant Education (IBEL) is one of the beneficiaries of Operation Santa Claus 2023, a charity drive jointly organised by RTHK and the South China Morning Post.
IBEL has centres in Jordan and Sham Shui Po which offer support, such as after-school tutorials and guidance counselling, to some 280 students every day from Monday to Saturday.
Speaking to RTHK's Emylia Rae, IBEL co-founder and chief executive Manoj Dhar said that while Hong Kong's free public education is accessible to the "socio-economically marginalised", it is also inequitable, segregating non-Chinese speaking students and stunting their growth.
"Schools have been less than inclusive and less supportive, so that kind of cripples the child's growth and ability to negotiate through the schooling system."
"The equal opportunity to learn, a nurturing environment, an inclusive environment -- that is what will help these children become productive citizens and contribute towards Hong Kong's sustainability. This concept that has been there of tagging people, segmenting the children and segregating them is not going to benefit anybody at all," he added.
IBEL is setting up a kindergarten to level the playing field for non-Chinese speaking children by teaching them Cantonese and Putonghua, as well as English, right from the start.
"The only way to solve the problem is to address the root cause rather than try and treat the symptoms. And how do you prevent poverty and unemployment? Create equal educational and language learning opportunities for the children. And the best place to start that is at the kindergarten level," Dhar said.
The theme of this year's charity drive is "Magic Moments", and it is funding 16 good causes, from children and youth needs, to the environment, as well as help for people with disabilities.
To find out more about Operation Santa Claus or to support the campaign, visit the Operation Santa Claus website.