SCMP Saturday, September 22, 2001
Academia rallies in terror aftermath
EDUCATION POST REPORTERS
Local educators and students have rallied together to face the repercussions of the recent terrorist attacks on the US.
Hong Kong has not escaped unscathed with institutions holding counselling sessions for traumatised students and working to overcome the disruption to programmes. One professor has also launched a resource Web site.
Several American exchange students at Baptist University with friends or relatives listed missing following the attacks in New York and Washington have received counselling therapy. Head of the university's international student exchange office, Benny Petty, said the students had found the help an effective support.
A prayer and sharing session was also held for 25 mostly American exchange programme participants. "We will continue to monitor the situation of those who have suffered personally and offer them help," Mr Petty said.
A large television screen was installed at an amenities centre at the University of Hong Kong until last Wednesday carrying live broadcasts from the US. The university's Dean of Student Affairs, John Powell, said a number of American students had arranged for counselling. "Students feel they need to have a deeper understanding of what happened, and to move beyond headlines to know about American foreign policy and talk about anxiety about future security of the world," he said.
The Web site launched this week also aims to help students and teachers make sense of the attacks. Dr Philip Hui Kwok-fai, a lecturer at the Hong Kong Institute of Education, created the site (edu-hk.net/epaweb) after failing to find resources for teachers on the Web. The site is a data bank providing news reports and analysis, articles on peace education and the teaching of conflict and co-operation, guidelines for helping children cope with acts of terrorism and advice from school psychologists. It also provides an open forum for comments and opinions.
Last week's events have also prompted reflection on most campuses. Students at both the Polytechnic and Chinese universities will hold forums next week on the attack and its implications. Student unions at HKU and the University of Science and Technology are planning similar events.
Memorial services and vigils have been conducted by institutions for the more than 6,000 people believed to have lost their lives in the attacks. The American International School's candlelight vigil on Tuesday was the largest, with more than 400 people attending. Many American teachers and students knew people involved in the ordeal.
The teaching of local programmes was disrupted as dozens of academics were unable to leave the US due to flight cancellations and postponements.
An Asian exhibition tour by American higher education institutions was also left with just 10 of its expected 30 representatives. Members of the Study USA AEO Tour in Hong Kong, held at a Kowloon Hotel last Sunday, struggled to field questions from the 2,400 parents and students who attended.
"No one inquired about the terrorist attacks. All our clients scheduled to start studies in the US this month have left," said education consultant Kitty Wu Wai-kit, of Litz USA Student Service, a co-organiser of the event. "But it is up to the parents to decide whether their children should go."
Meanwhile, the dean of the world's top business school, University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School, Professor Patrick Hark, postponed his planned Asian tour and remained in the US. He had been due to present a lecture at CUHK yesterday.