Following is a speech by the Permanent Secretary for Economic Development and Labour, Mr Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, at the Joint Speech Day of 13 Special Schools of Hong Chi Association today (May 12):
Mr Budge, Mr Chan, Honourable Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am very pleased to have been invited to officiate at the 2003/04 Joint Speech Day of 13 Special Schools of Hong Chi Association.
Since its inception in 1965, Hong Chi Association has spared no effort in serving people with mental handicaps and helping them not only to develop to their full potential but also to integrate into the community. Today, Hong Chi Association is the largest non-governmental organisation in Hong Kong providing a comprehensive array of services for people with mental handicaps, ranging from pre-school residential centres, special schools, vocational training, sheltered employment, day activity centres, adult education and recreational facilities.
My close association with the special schools of Hong Chi Association dates back to my tenure as Director of Education a few years ago. I have always been deeply impressed by the enthusiasm and total commitment of the teaching and non-teaching staff of these special schools in providing pluralistic education and training to their 2,000 or so mentally handicapped students as well as developing new curriculum and training materials such as the "Picture Communication Book" and the "Transition From School to Adult Roles (STAR)" programme. Over the years, their hard work, dedication and tireless pursuit of service excellence have gained wide recognition by the community at large. Hong Chi Morninghill School, Tsui Lam was awarded the "Certificate of Merit" in the domain of "Teaching and Learning" under the Outstanding School Award Scheme while Hong Chi Morninghill School, Tuen Mun was granted the Good People Management Award 2001.
Students of the 13 special schools have also achieved notable successes in both academic and non-academic fields such as the Shell/Island Jaycees Scholarships, Hong Kong Awards for Young Persons, Hong Kong Abilympics, Hong Kong Flower Show and the Special Olympic Games. These outstanding achievements not only deserve our admiration and applause but also represent the community's acceptance and recognition of people with mental handicap.
I am happy to see the 181 graduates of the 13 special schools attending this important graduation ceremony which signifies the beginning of their transition from school to the world of work. Regardless of their future plans (entering into open employment, taking up supported employment or undergoing vocational training), I have this piece of advice for them - given the rapid changes in today's labour market, they must equip themselves, in addition to academic knowledge, with a range of transferable skills (such as communication skills, information technology literacy and commercial knowledge) and a positive attitude (flexibility, adaptability and commitment to lifelong learning) in order to remain competitive and gain acceptance by the employer.
As you are probably aware, the Labour Department, through its Selective Placement Division (SPD), assists people with disabilities (including people with mental handicap) in securing open employment. Apart from providing disabled job-seekers with employment counselling, job matching and referral, and post-placement follow-up services, SPD's placement officers also actively pay visits to public and private organisations to canvass vacancies for disabled job-seekers. In 2003, SPD staged a series of public education programmes to promote employment opportunities for people with disabilities, provided assistance to 4,309 disabled job-seekers and successfully placed 2,442 of them (including 864 mentally handicapped persons) into employment, representing a placement rate of 57%.
For many years, SPD has been working closely with the special schools of Hong Chi Association to render employment assistance to their graduates. We look forward to even closer co-operation with them in future years. Their graduates or students are also welcome to contact SPD direct for employment assistance.
Finally, I congratulate all the graduates once again and wish them every success in their future endeavours.
Ends/Wednesday, May 12, 2004