Children’s Dreams from the Land of Coconut

VIE32-girl writing.JPGThe author, Trinh Hi Nhi is 12 years old and attends secondary school in Mo Cay Nam District, Ben Tre Province.

My hometown is in the “Land of the Coconut”, Ben Tre province. It has been changing a lot. Now the biggest concerns of the local government and people are illiteracy and children who don’t have an education. This reminds me of my friend, Nguyen Thi Kim Phuong.

Our whole class was shocked by the news that Phuong had stopped coming to school. She is a lovely and hard-working girl. But her family was in very difficult circumstances when her father developed mental illness after a traffic accident.

We decided to visit her. Her house was in a very narrow and long lane. When we finally got there, no one could believe that it was a house. It looked more like a dilapidated shelter. There we found Phuong sharpening coconut leaves. When I asked what she’d been doing, Phuong said: “I earn money by sharpening these leaves for souvenir gifts so I can pay for my father’s treatment.” Her father looked at her tenderly but sadly.

I asked her why she had not come to school, and she answered with tear-filled eyes: “I want to go to school, guys. But how could I afford it when we don’t even have enough money for food?”

And I’ll never forget what Phuong’s mother told me:  “Your family is well-off enough to afford your studying, our family is so poor that we cannot afford food. So how can Phuong go to school, girls?”

What Phuong and her mother said gave us the idea of asking for donations for her schooling. And so, thanks to the whole-hearted help and patience of our class teacher and the school headteacher, Phuong came back to school. She was very grateful to her teachers, sponsors and classmates for helping her turn a new page of life.

Dear friends, there are many unhappy people around us who need our help. My hometown has taught me many good things. This is where I can become a good person who is helpful to my family and community. And if you and me are good people, we will always be loved.

KEY FACTS: COSTS OF SCHOOLING IN VIETNAM

  • Vietnam has achieved the MDG aim of universal primary education with 97 per cent of all children enrolled in primary school.
  • Schooling is free in Vietnam but there are many other extra costs involved such as uniforms and especially extra classes which makes it difficult for some poor families to send their children to school.

Sources: UNICEF web page (2010): ‘Vietnam At a Glance’.

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