Ocean Park has launched the “I’m With You” Awards to recognise students, parents, and teachers who show positive thinking and resilience in school.
From now until May 16, primary and secondary schools in Hong Kong can nominate up to two students from each grade to receive a pair of Ocean Park admission tickets and a certificate. Ocean Park estimates that 24,000 tickets will be given out to students from 1,000 schools.
“We really need a culture of appreciation in schools,” said Paul Yip Siu-fai, director of the Centre for Suicide Research & Prevention and HKU. “We see many negative reports about student suicides in the media, and that has encouraged young people to take their own lives. But positive energy is also contagious. We need to spread praise and recognition. The prize of the scheme may be very small, but it would mean a lot for students who have never won anything in their lives before. They could also go to the park with a parent, which is great for bonding.”
Joy Chan Ngo-wun, a Year Four student at the Hong Kong Institute of Education, said she fell into depression after her father lost his job two months before her DSE exams in 2012. “I was the first batch of students to sit the exam, and the pressure was huge. My entire future seemed to depend on this exam, but my family couldn’t afford for me to have tutor lessons,” she said. She cried a lot, and during lunchtime she would stay behind in the classroom, and her friends, not knowing what was wrong, stayed with her. Gradually, Joy felt comfortable enough to share her difficulties. Her class teacher helped her to apply for financial support, and she was able to attend tutorial courses to help with her studies.
“When you’re experiencing big changes in your life, sometimes all you need is someone to listen,” she said.
Schools can also nominate individual or groups of students, parents and teachers for an additional prize. The scheme’s three co-organisers, Ocean Park, the Committee on Home-School Co-operation and the University of Hong Kong’s Department of Social Work and Social Administration, will select 10 winners from each category. Each individual winner will receive two Ocean Park Gold Annual Passes, while each winning group will get 20 adult admission tickets.
Wong Chi-wai, a teacher at Nam Wah Catholic Secondary School, said he regularly calls up parents to compliment students. He said this helps a lot when he really has to work with parents to solve students’ problems, because parents are more willing to cooperate, and students don’t feel that he has anything personal against them.
“Praising students can also educate parents to be more positive,” he said. “Everyone loves their children, but what’s important is to make the children feel loved.”
Wong, who grew up in poverty, uses creative ways to get less-motivated students to come to school, such as organising football games before class. His school also regularly does fundraising for students with financial difficulties.
“Sometimes we see boys not tucking in their shirts, and we think they do it because they want to look cool,” Wong said. “But there was a case where a student grew fat and he couldn’t button up his pants at the waist. He didn’t have money for bigger pants, so he just didn’t tuck his shirt to cover up his underwear.”
Wong added that when teachers at schools set up a good example of helping and respecting people, students will follow. For example, students at his football club began sharing sportswear and shoes among themselves because not all of them could buy their own.
Recalling the difficulties of his childhood, Wong said he never thought to end his life. “I was always thinking of new ways to survive,” he said. “I studied on and off at seven tertiary institutions before I could finally become a teacher.” He said overprotective parents have greatly reduced the problem-solving skills of students, because the kids never have to figure out their own solutions to any difficulties.
Chan believes that the popularity of social media has also greatly reduced quality sharing time with friends. “We comment too quickly on social media and don’t take things seriously enough,” added Yip. He said there was one case where a person said on Facebook that he would die in three days, but friends didn’t take him seriously. But three days later, the person ended his own life.
“We must treat these comments very seriously, and if you don’t know how to help, find professional help,” he said.
To nominate students, teachers, or parents for the award, head to Committee on Home-School Co-operation website.