'I Thought I Could Turn Democracy Into a Fairy Tale'


2014.10.17
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china-hk-kindergarten-teacher-oct-2014-1000.jpg Chin teaches young students about universal suffrage in an undated photo.
RFA

During the mass civil disobedience campaign for full universal suffrage that began in Hong Kong on Sept. 28, lecturers left their universities and took to the streets and squares of the former British colony to offer "democracy classrooms" for students and passers-by alike. But for a young kindergarten teacher surnamed Chin from the industrial district of Kwun Tong, the classes were held too late.

She began telling stories to younger children brought to the Occupy Central site by their parents. In her stories, illustrated with soft-toy props and pictures, all the animals are told to choose a new king of the forest, but the lion king won't listen to suggestions from the smaller animals, telling them they can only vote for two possible candidates chosen by him. The smaller animals stage demonstrations and sit-ins in protest. Chin told RFA's Mandarin Service how she came to be teaching such young children about politics:


During the rallies in Admiralty on Oct. 1 National Day, I saw there were a lot of kids taking part. There were some kids behind me who were shouting "I want real universal suffrage!" I thought then that they probably didn't know what they were shouting about.

So when I saw a university lecturer teaching here, I thought that younger children should have the right to the same sort of education. I ran the classes from 1:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. last Sunday, a new group every half hour. I taught more than 20 groups, in all.

I thought I could take the story and turn it into a fairy tale, so they could think and talk about why they are here. Children need personal experience in order to discuss things, so only when they have been to the Occupy site and seen people sitting in quiet protest, will they understand what we are talking about.

Otherwise, it would be very hard to explain such concepts clearly to them. Actually the discussion went off pretty well. To start off with, they didn't feel able to express their own opinions, but halfway through, they seemed to settle down a bit, and they gradually started talking.

Young leaders

There were always one or two in each group who understood a bit more of what we were talking about, so they were able to lead the discussions, so that the students who didn't really get it were led by them to a more sophisticated understanding.

Most of the parents liked this activity a lot, because they felt pretty powerless, and didn't know how to talk to their kids about politics, about concepts like universal suffrage and the Occupy movement. These are ideas that are very hard to explain.

They liked the fact that we were discussing it by telling stories, and the fact that the kids discussed it among themselves. I didn't impose my opinion on them.

Reported by Xin Lin for RFA's Mandarin Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.

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