History - About School Camp

Genesis of the School Camp

Text Version

At the time when QES was established and for many years afterwards social conditions in Hong Kong were such that few of our students had ever been far from their home districts.  Accordingly Mr. Cheong Wai-fung, the Principal, managed to get the use of government lorries and we took some of the students on a tour of Hong Kong Island and, I believe, of Kowloon.  For reasons of safety, however, it was soon decided that the lorries should not be available for this purpose and so this early initiative came to an end. 

Then in 1959 I together with four teachers took a group of Form IV students to Lantao.  We took the ferry to Tung Chung, then a small fishing village, and walked up the narrow track to Ngong Ping and stayed the night at the Buddhist monastery there.  The monastery was smaller then and no charge was made for food and accommodation, although visitors were invited to make a voluntary contribution for the upkeep of the monastery.  I remember that we got caught in heavy rain on the way up but that made no difference to the high spirits of the students.  The following day we walked down to Tai O and took the ferry back to Hong Kong.  This trip was a tremendous experience for the students for few of them, if any, had been to Lantao or even stayed away from home before.  It was such a success that we repeated the trip with a group of Lower VI students a short while afterwards.  In 1960 we took a group to Shataukok, spending the night in the primary school there, and later took two groups to Lantao.

The students not only enjoyed these trips, which were taking them to areas that were a complete contrast to the concrete jungle in which most of them lived, but were gaining a broader experience.  It then occurred to a few of us that it would be wonderful if we could somehow set up a permanent camp in the New Territories.  I therefore drove into the New Territories one Saturday morning, together with Mr. Walter Ng and Mr. David Tam who were from the beginning keen on this idea, to look for a suitable site.  We did not find one on that occasion but on a later trip, on which a few of the senior students came with us, we found a place that seemed ideal for our purpose.  It was by the sea, fairly isolated, not passed by any road, and we reached it by a walk of perhaps half an hour along a dirt track from the end of the bus route.

The next question was how could we get permission to use this site for a camp.  We spoke to the villagers who used the ground for grazing their animals and they raised no objection, so soon afterwards I approached the District Officer who was responsible for that area.  I did not know him at all but he at once approved of our idea of a school camp and promised to speak to the villagers about it.  He offered them another piece of land for grazing their animals and so this matter was settled without difficulty.

Then came the problem of finance.  The only possible source of money was the Parents-Teachers Association and I did not expect that it would be easy to persuade it to support the idea because education was so often seen as limited to academic learning.  To my delighted relief, however, the PTA, led by its chairman, Mr. Wong Hau Yuen, showed itself enthusiastic about the idea.  We decided on the form of the proposed camp and estimated the cost and then the PTA raised that money, some parents making large donations but others of more limited means giving what they could afford.  One member of the PTA committee, Mr. Ng Tor Tai, a building contractor, undertook the work of constructing the camp so the way seemed clear to go ahead, and together with some of the students we began clearing the site.

At that stage, in July 1961, I went on home leave and did not return until March 1962.  At the same time Mr. Ng went on a course of study in Scotland and I rather expected that during our absence the camp scheme would remain in abeyance.  But I had reckoned without the enthusiasm of Mr. Tam and some student helpers aided by the encouragement of the acting Principal, Mr. Tsang Koon Kuk.  When I returned I found that work had continued in clearing the site of bushes and that a groundbreaking ceremony had been held.  Plans for the construction had been agreed and were waiting only for my approval.  So the building could start.  We had a stroke of good luck when we discovered a small reservoir that had been built long before, when there had been a brick-making works near our site.  The reservoir was silted up with earth, stones and bushes, but was dug out and connected to our camp, so we would not need to carry water from the well of the village.

The PTA committee was eager that an important person should preside at the opening of the camp, suggesting that the Governor of Hong Kong should be invited.  So I approached the Director of Education about this (we had hitherto developed our plans for the camp without any reference to the Education Department), fully expecting a firm rebuff, but was agreeably surprised when he suggested that the invitation should go to Miss Barbara Black, the daughter of the Governor, since it was an enterprise for young people.  The invitation was accepted and on 22nd September 1962 she officially opened the camp.

I had glibly thought that groups of students would go to the camp with one or more teachers but Mr. Ng, who had now returned from his course, pointed out that very few teachers had experience of camping and that we should therefore train a number of students in such matters as camp cooking, keeping the site tidy and disposing of rubbish, maintaining supplies of essential items, first aid, and organizing camp fires.  At least two of these camp wardens should accompany the teacher and students who went to the camp.  Students were selected for training on a basis of sense of responsibility, not of academic achievement, and were warned that the training would take a good deal of time with lectures after school and in the camp.  If they were willing to take part then they had to get the consent of their parents.  So a first wardens’ course was started, conducted by teachers, students – scouts and guides – and occasionally by former students.  This scheme proved a great success and subsequently the experienced wardens helped to train the new ones.

The camp flourished from the beginning, thanks to teachers who were willing to act as leaders continuing the pioneering work of Mr. Ng and Mr. Tam, to the camp wardens, and to the many teachers who were willing to spend weekends or a few days in the holidays there with their classes or other groups of students.  As time went on the camp developed, trees were planted, a fence put up, canoes were introduced, at first bought but then built in the school, an additional hut was built, and so on.  Eventually electricity reached the camp and a road was built that passed the site.

Over the years countless students have profited in various ways from their time in the camp and the camp wardens, more than others, have gained from their experience.  Several of them have told me since, even years afterwards, what a great influence that experience has had on their lives.