Students should do more to fight SARS

The Young Reporter (2003, May), 35(8), pp. 5.
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SINCE Hong Kong has become one of the virulent breeding grounds for the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), schools were shut to keep students away from the epidemic for weeks. While all frontline medical and healthcare professionals are working around the clock to fight against the deadly contagion, what are the students of Hong Kong, our future of society, doing during this battling time? Are they enjoying this extra holiday at home or in Karaoke boxes?

A recent research stated that students spent most of their time watching television, playing computers games and surfing the Internet at home during the suspension of classes.

Hong Kong has long been criticised for its “spoon-feeding” education system, in which students are told what to do and what to think. Schools, teachers and parents prepare almost everything for them. What they have to do is just to follow or obey. As SARS rages in Hong Kong, such characteristic of “spoon-feeding” is obvious—Most students obediently stay home, wash hands frequently and thoroughly, and wear face masks when going out, etc. However, apart from all these “told to-do” things, what else have the students done to curb the SARS outbreak? Have they ever thought of how they could help?

Even though SARS is fearful and its virus runs rampant in this hot zone, all Hong Kong students could do more other than keeping outlook on their personal hygiene. Of course, it is impossible to ask ordinary school children to take care of SARS patients, and, this is not we are asking for. Many students have full reliance on their family to maintain a virus-free environment. Perhaps they should at least help wash up their homes instead of watching television while their parents or maids are busy with all the clean-up duties. And, they should show more concern to their relatives, friends and neighbors, but not to isolate or discriminate those who live near the most infected districts.

For university students, we expect even more. However, it is a shame that a university student and a 14-year-old boy spread fake and misleading news about SARS and the Chief Executive on the Internet, making the anxious Hong Kong people panic. Such acts are so inconsiderate that even non-educated people would not have done.

Indeed, we appreciate those medical and nursing students who unselfishly work as voluntary workers in hospitals, and those students who set up hotlines and by all means offered help to the SARS victims. But woefully, only a small proportion of students have such contributions during this critical period.

Being a volunteer is the best way to offer help. Other than giving direct help to those SARS patients, students can help in kinds of promotion and education work. For example, work as healthcare ambassadors in schools and old people’s home to stress the importance of personal hygiene as well as the ways to prevent SARS; work as councilors to provide psychological support and advices through telephone hotlines. It is believed that the more we care for the victims, the easier they could get over from the pain.

To conquer the atypical pneumonia crisis, we need to bear the hardship and call on the unity of every Hong Kong people. As the future masters of Hong Kong, we hope students could take the responsibility to establish stronger bonds with members in society.