Hard-pressed by Study

VIE10-girl reading in sun.JPGThe author, Phan Thi To Uyen is 14 years old and attends Pho Rang 1 Secondary School in Lao Cai City.

I think there are few people who have such a hard life as me: my father died when I was little, and then my older brother dropped out of school and ended up unemployed, so there is nobody in my family but me for mother to lean on.

Father passed away when I was nine. It was a real shock for me, and mother had to become the family breadwinner. In the four years since, my brother has just wasted his time instead of studying hard. This made my mother very upset and disappointed because she thinks that he, once grown up, will take on the main responsibility for the family according to our tradition – not me, the daughter.

The more I love my mother, the more I feel hurt by her way of thinking. I have tried my best to study to make her happy and show her that a daughter can do better than a son. She is very proud that I always achieve excellent results. On the day I took an exam for excellent students, she held me in her arms, crying and asking me to forgive her for her discriminatory views. Thanks to her encouragement, I got the highest mark!

I’ve also tried to persuade my brother to study hard instead of wasting time on worthless activities. At first, he laughed at me and did not listen to anything I said, but when I told him that mother cried about him every night, he promised to change.

I hope that from now on my brother will concentrate. We will try to be successful in our studies and become good citizens so mother will be proud of us and nobody can mock us for being bad children because we don’t have a father.


  • In poor families the number of ‘shocks’ that can affect a household is high. The effect of a failed harvest, a lost job, or the illness or death of a parent can have both short-term and long-term effects on children’s development.
  • Within the Young Lives sample, 2 per cent of the children had lost a parent by age 5 and 2.5 per cent of the 12-year-olds had lost a parent in the previous four years.
  • Our research shows that losing a parent has a significant impact on enrolment and on achievement at school. It also significantly effects how positive children feel about their lives.

Sources: Young Lives (2009): Nothing is impossible for me: Stories from Young Lives children; Oxford; Young Lives Round 2 data; Young Lives Policy Brief 7.

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