Thursday, June 27, 2013

Boarding schools provide education and security for vulnerable children in Viet Nam

A programme in Viet Nam supports ethnic minority children in their learning.
Giang Thi Me is visiting her family during weekend. Together with 90 other Mong students, she stays in school in weekdays as it’s too far for her to travel from home to school everyday.
DIEN BIEN PROVINCE, Viet Nam – At 6:30 a.m. in this remote, mountainous region of northern Viet Nam, the day has begun at the Tua Thang boarding school. Giang Thi Me, 7, is one of the more than 300 students at the school. She is a member of the Mong ethnic minority. Together with 90 other students, Me stays in the school in weekdays as it’s too far for her to travel from home to school everyday.
Me’s school day

Me’s day starts when she joins other students to sweep the school yard, and then it’s a quick breakfast, before her studies commence. Today’s topics are mathematics, Vietnamese language and art.

Because most of the students don’t speak Vietnamese at home, Me finds it a challenge to write in the language of the majority ethnic group in Viet Nam. During the morning break, Me jumps rope with her friends before returning to the classroom.

“I like going to school very much,” she says.

Education, and protection

Me is one of the ethnic minority children of primary and lower-secondary school age in the province receiving UNICEF support for their learning.

“Many ethnic minority children come from very poor families and do not even have education, healthcare, good nutrition or water and sanitation,” says UNICEF Viet Nam Education Chief Mitsue Uemura. “Oftentimes, they are also neglected, abused or forced into child labour and early marriage.”
This support is reflected at the national level where, thanks to UNICEF’s advocacy, the government has issued a new policy that provides support to children in boarding schools – such as meals, accommodation and a small allowance for entertainment activities and sports.

More opportunities for Me

Viet Nam has enjoyed rapid growth over the past two decades. However, many children and their families remain in poverty, particularly those from ethnic minorities.

On Saturday, Me and her friends go up to the mountains to visit their families. Her village is 6 km from the school. The path is rocky, so the journey takes the children one hour.

Over lunch, her extended family of 17 gets caught up on the events of the week. Me’s parents are happy to see her flourishing at school, and they hope that it will lead to more opportunities for her than they have had.

“I really hope Me continues her studies so that she can become a teacher,” says her father, Giang A Phong.

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