AGENCY: Youth With A Mission – Mercy, Relief and Development Vietnam
LOCATION: Fifteen communes in Ha Tay and Bac Giang Province (near Hanoi) where YWAM is currently working.
SITUATION: A key strategy for poverty alleviation is education, and while Vietnam has one of the highest literacy rates in the developing world, this remarkable achievement is in danger of slipping. Since Vietnam opened the door to market reform policies, services that were once free, such as education and health care are now only accessible to those who have money to pay. And while families who have a poverty registration are exempt from certain education fees, in practice the percentage of poor children in some communes is so high that the school can not operate without charging some sort of fee. The families are also responsible for buying educational supplies such as exercise books, text books, workbooks and pens and pencils. This expense is often too great for the families to provide. Families will sacrificially try to enable their children to complete their education, but when there isn’t enough for food on the table there is no other choice than to withdraw their children from school as they can’t afford textbooks or school fees. See the story of Thanh (attached).
GOAL OF THE PROJECT: To assist the children who are in danger of dropping out of the school system to continue their education by providing text books, exercise books, stationery and supplies, a school bag and in some instances adequate clothing.
PROCESS: Meetings are held in each of the communes to identify selection criteria for children. These must be very clear as the need is overwhelming and far exceeds the limited available resources. If the selection process is not done carefully there is a great potential for social conflict and accusations of favouritism. So the selection process is done in a transparent way involving the following people:
The selection team consists of representatives of mass organisations, primary and secondary school, Hamlet leaders as well as Communist party and People’s Committee representatives as well as YWAM Staff.
This is tailored to each location but usually the list is as follows:
- The child’s family must be registered as a poor family according to the Vietnamese Government’s definition of poverty.
- Child is orphaned or abandoned by one parent or both parents
- There is serious or chronic sickness or disability in the family
- The family has met with some disaster in the recent past
- The family has many children.
These criteria are weighted by the leadership according to how they see the seriousness of the contributing factors. Each family is then visited by a delegation and their situation assessed. The scores of the children visited in each commune are tallied and the number of children that are selected is based on the available resources.
The supplies are then purchased and a ceremony is held to present the children with their school supplies for the coming school year. This process takes place before the new school year begins. The parents or caregivers of children receiving this assistance make a commitment to send their child to school for the whole year.
Local contribution includes the following: time spent for delegation representatives including criteria selection meetings, household visits, and presentation ceremony, fuel costs for household visits, use of meeting halls, time spent for purchasing and sorting supplies.
The children receive the following assistance, grade appropriate text books, exercise books, notebooks, pens pencils and other study equipment required for their grade as well as a school bag if needed, and in some cases a set of school clothing.
BUDGET FOR EACH CHILD
|EXPENDITURE||AMOUNT Aust Dollars|
|Text books||$4.50-$10.00||Depending on the child’s grade level|
|Stationery and pens||$4.00|
|School bag||$4.00-$5.00||Primary and secondary schools use different bags|
|Clothing||$4.50-$6.00||Depending on the child’s size|
|TOTAL||$17- $25||Per child per year|
* this is based on an exchange rate of $1 Aust= 13,800 VND. Amounts may change depending on the exchange rate and inflation.
The Story of Thanh
Thanh will begin school this year entering grade one in September. He lives with his parents and his younger sister, who is three and a half, in a small-degraded house. Thanh’s parents sent him to kindergarten from the age of 16 months. They didn’t have time to care for him at home as they both had to find ways to make ends meet for their family. His mother was then working in their rice fields, and his father was able to find part time unskilled work in a private machinery workshop. However with the urbanization of Yen Nghia, most of their cultivation land was re-assigned as industrial land and what they have left is insufficient for the family’s food needs. In addition, they don’t have the required skills to find employment in the factories that are springing up in the area, so their family has become poorer.
We visited his family at lunchtime when Thanh was studying. His house seems to have nothing, only an old bed and an old black and white television. We observed that they had not been able to prepare the supplies that Thanh would need for entering the new school year. When questioned about their situation, his father said “We don’t have time to care for Thanh; therefore, we had to falsify his age in order to send him to kindergarten when he was 16 months old. We can’t attend most of parent meetings, due to the constant need we have of finding work”. When we questioned their preparation for Thanh’s entering primary school, his father answered: “We can’t even provide enough food for the family. How can we think of other needs”. Yet it was obvious that Thanh has a strong desire to study. When we arrived at the house we found him seated on a couple of old bricks using a very old wooden stool as a table as he was practicing writing the alphabet in an old used notebook that he had found.
Obviously, the primary school is aware of Thanh’s difficult circumstances and his name was put forward for selection as one of the beneficiaries to receive the study assistance. We hope it will encourage Thanh to study well in this school year.