Kindergutter—a Bursary Rhyme

Thank you for giving my boy a shot
As your 409th candidate.
Here, madam, are his résumé
And all his certificates.
Yes! He can speak six languages,
Although not very articulate.
Oh, that’s his latest judo belt—
My boy is far from delicate.
Is that a piano you’ve got there?
Did I mention he’s a Mozart-replicate?

He’ll be so prepped you needn’t teach
Him to read and write, or to sing the hymns,
Nor arithmetics, nor history, nor philosophy … Heck!
My triathlete boy also rocks the gym.
I promise he’ll be your best student—
And I won’t do his homework for him.
My boy is born for military discipline, you see—
Isn’t he all proper and prim?
Nevermind he still isn’t potty-trained,
By September he won’t be out on a limb.

Madam, madam, hear my plea.
There is little else I have to say.
Here’s my savings, here’s my boy—
Please take both with you right away.
For five days a week
And three hours a day,
Bar the door and seal the gate,
Teach him anything but play.
Let him aboard the through train bound for a bright future,
Just so he isn’t in my class to stay.


Colin Lee


We received news over the CNY holiday. Thank Goodness our second child has got in our preferred school. The competition is so fierce in Hong Kong it isn’t uncommon for parents to queue up overnight outside kindergartens, such as that shown in the featured image above. A popular school in our town sieves through 1,000 applicants for an annual enrolment of 40. In one other extreme case, a line stander sold an application form (application, not admission) for HK$8,000 (around US$1,000) to a desperate parent. And that is only the beginning. Usually, after each successful application (guaranteed by a hefty application fee), parents and children are scheduled for bouts of interviews (Oh, let the hunger games begin!), followed by months of purgatory half afloat in some waiting lists (that is, keeping our fingers crossed at the mercy of scholastic bureaucracy). Once admitted (Congratulations!), get ready to cough it up. A typical, non-subsidised kindergarten charges around HK$3,500 to HK$7,000 a month, comparing to a minimum wage of HK$34.50 / hr and an average salary of around HK$15,000 / mo. Do the maths.

C’est la vie … à Hong Kong.

Photo Courtesy: Apple Daily

11 thoughts on “Kindergutter—a Bursary Rhyme

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  1. Sounds like there’s nothing left for the boy to learn but death. So crazy the atmosphere of the “little emperors” in, not only China, but all over the world where the spirit of globalism and competition has long since killed the spirit of childhood and play.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. … has long since killed the spirit of childhood and play … and gutted the purses of lower/middle-class parents. (Oh, poor me!) Thank you for dropping by, Amaya.


  2. same things happening here in Malaysia too Colin though not as exorbitant. lots of jostling for the best schools and sometimes even trying to “buy” their way in. luckily my youngest is finishing high school this year and I don’t have this anxiety. love the way you have pout your soul into the poem.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Gina. What I referred to here isn’t about the best schools where only the rich and powerful patronise (Those upper-class country clubs!) … but the everyday education businesses such as the nameless nurseries operating on the ground floors of many grassroot public housings. You see, I did pour my soul into this — especially the bitter side of it! Comparing to how things were in my childhood, the scholastic bureaucracy at present, fuelled by pure consumerism and greed, is simply sickening, inhuman, unethical and destructive towards our social development.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. the bane of the developed world and we slowly lose our sense of community too, fighting for what seems to be the best for ourselves all the time. things have really changed and not for the better. School systems now segregrate more than intergrate and students come out with less life skills than ever. it must be so very challenging to bring up kids where you live with that struggle even with common education. I have visited Hong Kong and feel the strangulation of highways yet the coast line gives me such a calmness. i loved reading the passion in your poem Colin.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. So very well said, Gina. Thank you. Even the concrete jungles here are used to elbowing each other, let alone education. And it’s thus upon a suburb’s coastline where we’ve made our matchbox home.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. HI, Colin! This hit home! Am wondering if it’s an Asia thing, coz of our populations & a demand:supply gap? It’s crazy what parents and kids have to go through, right from kindergarten onwards 😦

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello, Kunal. Thank you for dropping by! I would say this isn’t exclusively Asian, though populous societies (such as yours and ours) seem to be where the phenomenon is most pronounced. My suggestion is that it comes from class struggle (as concluded at the poem’s end) where the lower and lower-middle class parents, deprived of opportunities and resources, try desperately to give their kids a fairer start. As many studies show, income in the modern age has very little to do with how hard one works … but what school and class an individual belongs. While over the past century communism and socialism attempted to right the course and very much blundered and lived on mutilatedly in a still more capitalist world, where and when we are is very much trampled by the idle and the silver-spoon. 😦

      Liked by 1 person

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