Village school memories

Village school memories

Exhibition looks back at the life and times of rural classrooms

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Village school memories_L
Photos: The Hong Kong Institute of Education
In the old days, Hong Kong's village schools were much more than a place for rural children to get an education. They were the heart of the community and, even though many have been shut down in recent years, they have left a rich heritage.

From now until September 27, the public can explore that rich heritage in an exhibition at the Hong Kong Museum of History.

The exhibition is called Under the Trees: People and Stories from Village Schools. It looks at how village schools started, what they were like and the role they played in the community.

On display is a collection of historical artefacts, including an old bronze school bell, an old map of Hong Kong and writing materials.

The photographs in the show give visitors a picture of daily life in the village schools. There is also an audio and video section where songs sung by village schoolchildren and interviews with former teachers and students are played.

The exhibition is based on a joint research project between the Hong Kong Institute of Education (HKIEd) and the Hong Kong Museum of History.

Researcher Yu Wai-bing of the HKIEd says village schools were an important part of education in Hong Kong.

'Village schools played a key role in the education history of Hong Kong in terms of promoting education to the public,' she says.

'Its concept of spreading education to all was innovative. Village schools should be remembered and respected as a valuable chapter in local history.'

Yu says village schools were much more than a classroom to residents.

'In the old days, the village school was like the brain of a village. At that time the literacy rate was rather low,' she explains.

'Villagers went to teachers at the schools to get help reading or writing letters and documents. Those who wanted to go overseas to make a living went to the schools to ask for a reference letter and seek advice from teachers on various matters.

'Teachers were well respected and close to the villagers - they offered teachers the best food.'

Yu says although many of the schools were shut down in 2006, village schools will continue to operate.

'Some have moved to new campuses like mainstream schools. Others are still at their original site but are now equipped with air conditioning and computers,' she says.

'They do not offer anything less than mainstream schools and continue to educate students living in remote areas.'

Brian Lam Kwok-fai from the Hong Kong Museum of History says researchers spent two years visiting more than 50 village schools across the New Territories and outlying islands for the project.

'Thousands of photos and artefacts were collected. The exhibition is less academic. It focuses on the people and stories surrounding village schools,' he says.

Talks about the schools will be given on August 21 and September 4.

For details of the exhibition and lectures, visit www.museum.ied.edu.hk

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