More unity may help road toll
Foundation days are wonderful events for celebrating the beginning of an organisation or nation. They often commemorate a person whose character and drive still inspires the group.
So, how would you feel if the day it all began was also later chosen to mark something far less appealing? To be specific, how must the members of the Viet Nam Fatherland Front have felt to find that their sacred day on November 18 had also been chosen to remember the 12,000 people who die on the nation's roads each year?
Both events mark momentous and significant happenings. Ho Chi Minh founded the Fatherland Front on November 18, 1955, to remind all Vietnamese that they belonged to the one nation - that North and South were indivisible. It was this deep sentiment that helped carry the Vietnamese people to victory over the remnants of the colonial invaders and their American allies.
Recently, the media reported that people in the Fatherland Front were long faced about the National Traffic Safety Committee's decision to also select November 18 as the national day to commemorate traffic accidents' victims. Noting the clash of events, Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc last week ordered that the national traffic safety day be moved one day to November 19.
Probably a wise move. It's hard to compare the sacrifices made by tens of thousands of Vietnamese in the cause of national unity with the needless and depressing slaughter on the nation's roads.
But who knows, a little national unity might be the way to attack the horrendous road toll from North to South.
It pays to be a bit mad
Vietnamese children, as a rule, have their first lessons in writing, reading and arithmetic when they are in the first grade. However, this has changed. In many schools now, at the beginning of the academic year, first-grade students have to do unofficial tests so teachers can check their capabilities.
If they do not perform well, they are grouped with pupils with mental problems or low intellectual ability. The odd thing is that psychologist Kieu Thanh Ha from HCM City Children's Hospital No. 2 says many parents actually ask her to certify that their children are mentally backward. She always refuses.
The reason for this strange request lies in the fact that teachers are worried about their own salaries and promotion being affected by poor students. School authorities usually link the two things together.
To avoid this, teachers urge parents to get a certificate declaring their children have learning problems – in other words, are mentally backward. This releases the teachers from being punished for not being able to teach them.
Being aware of the situation, many parents force their children to learn reading and writing at the age of four or five before they go to primary school. However, psychologists have warned that forcing such young children to learn can do more harm than good.
When they start going to real school, they often become bored at receiving knowledge they already know. As a result, they become lazy and do not complete their homework.
This all goes to show that a little madness can also be a dangerous thing!
Death is no leveller
Viet Nam's cemeteries appear to be entering a new phase. A plan for a 23,000-square metre cemetery in southern Dong Nai Province's Cam My District separates the rich from the poor. The higher grave sites with a view cost much more than the other grave sites lower down.
This has upset many who had become used to the equality of the old system. The living are now often separated by the size of their incomes. And now, even in death, the distinction continues.
According to Ngo Huu Phung, head of Cam My District's Infrastructure and Economics Department, it is reasonable for people with more money to have a better position. He claims that this does not differentiate rich from poor.
Mr Phung is looking for suitable words to try and explain this "misunderstanding". Any suggestions? — VNS