Following is the speech (translated version) delivered by the Financial Secretary, Mr Donald Tsang, at the Official Commissioning of the Special Needs Life Education Centre today (April 9):
Mr Tang, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,
This is one of those occasions when I really enjoy being Financial Secretary. Seeing the efforts of the public and the private sectors coming together to provide such a valuable facility, not so much in money terms, but in the care and well-being of our young people. Young people who, in this instance, can sometimes miss out on the opportunities available to others. However, the Life Education Activity Programme - or LEAP as it's more commonly known - is making sure this is not the case.
And from the outset I wish to congratulate LEAP on its vision, dedication and perseverance in setting up the first Special Needs Life Education Centre in Hong Kong. This LEAP mobile classroom will carry a specially-tailored health awareness, drug preventive education programme, to some 2,500 students in more than 20 schools catering for children with mental or physical disabilities. It is a tremendous effort from a small, non-profit organisation that is now operating six mobile classrooms for over 50,000 children.
The more we do to educate our young people about the benefits of a healthy lifestyle and the damage to our bodies by drug abuse, the more we will be able to overcome a worldwide social problem. This is the message carried by LEAP's mobile classrooms and its small band of committed educators. It is the sort of programme that dovetails neatly with one of this year's budget initiatives. We have earmarked $84 million to launch a comprehensive plan of support services for youth at risk. A plan that is designed to meet the growing concern about our young people roaming the streets at night, joining gangs and abusing psychotropic substances.
I find LEAP's programme particularly encouraging. It is designed to develop social competency skills to enable children at an early age to make responsible decisions and say "no" without losing face or friends. These Life Education Centres have state of the art technology, including audio-visual aids, illuminated models of body systems and a "talking brain". They provide a relaxed, interactive and intimate environment for children's enjoyment and open discussion with an emphasis on positive reinforcement. The centres engender an environment that may not be so readily available in a larger classroom, and thus encourage the children to talk about life education issues.
Finally, I would like to pay tribute to LEAP's Executive Director, Mrs Jenny McGlynn, who, I understand, is retiring shortly. She, more than anyone else has made LEAP what it is today. Her untiring efforts and hard work since March 1993 are now paying dividends in the education of our young children.
LEAP has grown significantly in the past few years and now has 15 staff with permanent headquarters in Stubbs Road. And I am sure you will continue to grow in the years ahead, now that you have just started extending your programme to cover students in Form One. It probably won't be long before you're bringing life education activities to Forms Two and Three.
Jenny I wish you and LEAP every success in the future.
End/Monday, April 9, 2001