Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne received open letters from two former students dismayed at the state of their School. The letters were the collective efforts of alumni and students graduating from 2008 to 2020.
Photo: CDNIS alumni Grace Fung (left) and Zehra Jafree presenting the open letters to the visiting Premier. credit: Harbour Times.
The CDNIS Student-Alumni Forum surprised the Ontario Premier, Kathleen Wynne, before she presented at an event at Island Shangri-La in Hong Kong, with a series of open letters representing various graduation classes of current and former students, 176 students and alumni in all. The originals can be seen here.
The students and alumni had written the letters in June of this year and sent them to the Ontario Ministry of Education, one of the certifying bodies of the school (along with the Hong Kong government). Canadian education is province based and CDNIS is running the Ontario Secondary School Diploma (OSSD) programme. Their desperation drove them to take the Premier’s visit as an occasion to deliver the materials into her hands directly.
The two students are CDNIS alumni and wore their old uniforms to show allegiance to the spirit of the school as they had known it. Grace Fung is currently a third year student at Hong Kong University, no stranger itself to governance controversy and accusations of undue influence. Zehra Jafree is part of the student exodus that saw many students leave. She is currently attending Chinese International School where she is in Grade 11. They raise a host of issues related to the spate of firings of much loved teachers and administrators, the governance and a culture of fear that had left students ‘terrified’, in the words of Ms Fung.
Desperation drove them to take the Premier’s visit as an occasion to deliver the materials into her hands directly.
They were accompanied by a group parents, ex-Governors who had quit the Board and former members of the parent’s association, CISPA. They also were able to meet the Premier and explain their concerns.
While the Premier was not expecting the delegation, the hosting Canadian Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong, made hasty arrangements for a meeting with the Premier in an unused meeting room (see photos). The Premier, also a former Minister of Education, was aware of the issue and took quite some time to take the unscheduled meeting, while about 250 Hong Kong and Ontario business people were kept waiting (albeit over cocktails).
“We should be treated and be getting the same support a school in Toronto gets since we are accredited by the Ontario Ministry of Education.” – CDNIS Parent
Before she arrived, Executive Director of Communications, Andrea Mackenzie, indicated the School’s ongoing issues were ‘on our radar.’ Indeed,it has been on the front page of Canada’s national newspaper, The Globe & Mail, referred to as a ‘dysfunctional mess’. Ms Wynne asked detailed questions and appeared concerned.
Students explained the documents, signed by ‘Class of’ for various years (available here) lacked signatures on account of a culture of fear. They found the situation ‘heartbreaking’ and felt that ‘Canadian values were not being cherished.’ The Premier also received an explanation about how the Members would be cutting the ties to The Canadian Chamber of Commerce, The Canadian Club and the Canadian Consulate in their upcoming reform of the M&A in December. One parent expressed a view that if they were not adhering to Canadian values of transparency and democratic openness, they didn’t deserve to have the name ‘Canadian’ on the masthead.
No promises were made other than to look into the matter.
One parent’s frustration with the government was clear. He believes, “We should be treated and be getting the same support a school in Toronto gets since we are accredited by the Ontario Ministry of Education and the EDB in Hong Kong views CDNIS as the Ministry’s problem.” He claims parents, “want the Ontario Ministry of Education, as the regulatory body responsible for the school, to step in and save the school from the mess it is in and make sure the school is honouring all of its responsibilities.”
After the Premier went on to her appointment, Ms Fung and Ms Jafree, relieved at having delivered their message, were still discouraged about what was happening at their School. Ms Fung was unhappy that the new priorities were “all about the money, all about [controlling] the admissions.”
Ms Jafree looked down at her shirt and noted that, for this uniform, it was probably the last time she would ever wear it. She would not the be last student to put the uniform aside before graduating, with a tear of regret in her eye.