The Education Bureau has promised to finish conducting a review of vacant school premises in six months, following findings by the Audit Commission last year which highlighted the problem. The  Director of Audit revealed then that there were 234 vacant school premises, 45 percent of which were not in use. Up to a third of those buildings which are not in use have not been taken back by the government. On average, the schools have been out of operation for 11 years, the report said.

One of the vacant school premises. Photo: Stand News.

At the Legislative Council Public Accounts Committee hearing on Tuesday, Permanent Secretary for Education Marion Lai Chan Chi-kuen said that the figures in the report had not been updated since 2005, and that some of the vacant school campuses are now in use, RTHK reported.

Secretary for Education Eddie Ng welcomed the highlighting of the problem by the Audit Commission and promised to update the records. He also said that there will be an optimisation of administrative procedures, and the Bureau will be doing an inspection of the vacant premises.

“We hope to spend six months on the review – so that we’ll have a better estimate of how accurate the figure of 234 is,” Lai said. Lai also said that just because a school has ceased to operate does not necessarily mean that there will be vacant school premises, because some of the schools could be located in commercial buildings.

Lai also said that setting deadlines for changing the land use of vacant school premises may not be suitable for the needs of the changing environment, as the Education Bureau had to deal with fluctuations in the number of students. Therefore, they need to keep the premises designated for school use, in case they have to use them temporarily for contingency purposes.

Karen is a journalist and writer covering politics and legal affairs in Hong Kong for HKFP. She has also written features on human rights, public space, regional legal developments, social and grassroots activism, and arts & culture. She is a BA and LLB graduate from the University of Hong Kong.