There has been growing attention to Hong Kong's ethnic minorities in recent years. To help these groups integrate into the local community, the Mainland Student Services Unit under the Counselling and Development Centre of the Office of"Student Affairs joined hands with the Centre for Harmony and Enhancement of Ethnic Minority Residents (CHEER) of Hong Kong Christian Service (HKCS) to organise a programme entitled "After-school Support Class for Ethnic Minority Children".

The programme, which provided South Asian primary students with after-school tuition support from 6 February to 31 March 2017, also served to encourage students to care more about society as well as to enhance Mainland students' understanding of Hong Kong. 

According to former Mainland Student Services Officer Ms Yi Xiaoqin, the programme was initiated in response to Mainland students’ passion for volunteer work and with a view to fostering exchange by pairing up Hong Kong and Mainland students participating in the programme. She says, “We only had a couple of weeks’ time to develop the programme and recruit members. Due to the tight schedule, we selected only nine Mainland students and three local students to work as partners and made arrangements for them to tutor South Asian primary students at the HKCS centres in Yau Ma Tei, Sham Shui Po and Kwun Tong once a week.”

The Mainland Student Services Unit prepared the participating students with background information on South Asian ethnic minority communities and children’s psychological traits, while HKCS staff were invited to introduce the programme and areas that needed special attention. Peggy Wong, a local student volunteer who studies Education, also provided assistance by introducing Hong Kong’s primary education system.

Peggy says, “My biggest reward from participating in this programme is the chance to meet Mainland students, get to know their culture and lives, and at the same time gain a better understanding of South Asian children. This will all be useful in my future teaching career.”

Gloria Tan, a Science undergraduate from Shenzhen, has been deeply impressed by the South Asian students’ optimistic nature. “The students are always cheerful and innocent despite their complicated family backgrounds. Sometimes I wasn’t in a good mood, but their happiness inspired me and brightened up my day.” Gloria is also glad to have had the opportunity to get acquainted with a local Social Work student and to chat with her before and after class.   

Monica Zhuang, an Operational Research and Business Statistics student from the Mainland, enjoys teaching students using an interactive approach. “When my students finished their homework, I would read Minions: The Doodle Book to them and ask them to describe the Minions in Chinese. I would also play games with them and ask them questions related to different subjects. By so doing, I could help them with their revision in an interesting way.”

Summing up this programme, Ms Yi says, “It was very rewarding. Apart from the many benefits gained by the participating students, HKCS’s response was absolutely positive. We were even invited to take charge of the tuition classes at the centre in Sham Shui Po and the Friday evening class at the Yau Ma Tei centre in the new academic year. Since we were unable to pair one local student volunteer with one Mainland peer this time, we plan to begin recruiting more student volunteers in September in order to foster exchange between local and Mainland students.”

The training programme is being redesigned with enhanced focus on classroom management. Instructors from the Language Centre will be invited to share their experience and tips on teaching foreigners Cantonese. Arrangements will be made for participants to join a South Asian community guided tour to gain a further understanding of the South Asian ethnic minority groups. They will also visit the primary schools where the South Asian children are studying. At the same time, the children will be invited to tour the University’s campus so as to promote mutual understanding. It is hoped that with further experience and continuous improvement, the service can be strengthened.