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  • Writer's pictureBeccy Fox

Finding the Positives


We have just moved. What a feat of paperwork and covid tests it was! Moving to a different country in a pandemic is, to say the least, challenging. However, we made it safely to Bangkok and we are now secured in our quarantine hotel for a fortnight, which gives me time to reflect. Time to reflect on the extraordinary three years I have just experienced in Hong Kong.


I should have known it was going to be a wild ride when, just a month after landing, the mighty typhoon Mangkut hit Hong Kong. One of the most intense storms to hit Hong Kong, ever. It was an exhilarating and occasionally frightening 24 hours, but we came through unscathed and experienced our first, of many, school closures. Schools in Hong Kong were all closed on the day of the typhoon hitting the territory, and reopened again a few days later after the clean-up.


Things continued positively for a few weeks after that. The school was on a path of growth and development, and the motivation and enthusiasm of the staff was tangible. And then BAM!, the Hong Kong Education Bureau (EDB) ordered the closure of one of the school campuses. It was a bureaucratic issue, one that I still do not clearly understand, to do with the leasing of the buildings. The EDB gave no time to try to solve the issue, and so the campus in question was vacated. The school was closed for a few days while students and teachers were relocated, some to other schools and some to our other campus. It was quite a squash, but the students and teachers showed great resilience and made the best of the situation.


It was during this time I really understood the loyalty of the parents, who stood by the school and formed an action committee to petition the EDB about their concerns (to no avail). It was a shocking time and a baptism of fire for me into how the EDB works in Hong Kong, and into how a good education story is front page news. The school proprietor finally got her day in court in June 2020, after delays caused by the social unrest in Hong Kong and then the Covid-19 pandemic. She was exonerated of all charges. This news was not on the front pages of the popular press, but hidden in the local news of the lesser known papers.


I finished my first academic year at the school steering the ship through those choppy waters, but ultimately celebrating the flexibility of the students and school staff, and loyalty of the parents. It is a small school, it is a caring community, and this shone through during these difficult times.


We opened the 2019-20 school year feeling optimistic that we could regroup, reopen and rebuild. The school proprietor was keen to restart the secondary school. The school had been a candidate for the IB Diploma, we had a good strategic plan in process, and the vision was strong.


And then came the social unrest. It had started before the summer holidays with the enormous, but peaceful, demonstrations against the controversial extradition bill. The demonstrations escalated into protests and became increasingly chaotic and violent. Almost exactly a year after the school was closed by the EDB, we were closed again. The poor students were, once again, having their education interrupted.

And so that brings us to the Covid-19 pandemic, yet again disrupting the education of our students. This time not just the students in Hong Kong, but students across the world. Schools in Hong Kong were closed in January 2020 and, at the time of writing, have still not fully reopened. Since January 2020 our students have not had a full, normal day at school.



Actually, since August 2018, our students have not had a full, uninterrupted academic year of schooling and since November 2018 I have been doing a very different job to the one I was employed to do.


I came to Hong Kong in August 2018 with the brief to grow and develop a fairly new school that had aspirations of being a through school with a Preschool to Year 13 programme. The job I ended up doing was not quite what I had expected. Instead I had to lead the school through crisis after crisis, through periods of uncertainty and instability. Building and maintaining trusting relationships with the school community and putting my crisis management training to good use.


The subsequent sequence of unfortunate events made me develop my thinking. I am an organised, systems-thinker: I have successfully developed and implemented strategic plans. Now I have developed my skills of scenario planning, being prepared and flexible in adversity while continuing to make sure that student learning is at the forefront of any planning and decision making.


These three tumultuous years in Hong Kong have also made me truly appreciate the power of positive thinking. It would have been very easy to disappear into an abyss of negativity. A friend of mine was recently taken into government quarantine in Hong Kong. Not a pleasant experience, and on her birthday!. However, her posts on social media were inspiring. I told her as much. She responded that she was trying to keep a positive mindset, that her “neighbours” in quarantine who were filled with negativity were having a much worse time than her. How true this is. Her positive spirit is an example I use to remind myself, and colleagues, to always try to concentrate on the positive, it really helps you get through.



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