A recent survey by Ha Noi University of Home Affairs in 30 provinces and cities showed that many commune officials can't use computers, even to edit a document.
The survey was announced at a meeting to assess training for commune officials. It was held by the Ministry of Home Affairs recently in the southern city of Can Tho.
In some communes in northern Thai Nguyen Province, communes hire ninth grade students to type documents.
The Tien Phong (Vanguard) newspaper quoted university principal Trieu Van Cuong as saying that in some communes only 20km from Lai Chau Town, they had only one employee capable of using a computer, but most did not know how to lay out a document.
It said this was because 22.5 per cent of State employees in the 30 provinces and cities had not received enough professional training or only elementary training.
Can Tho Department of Home Affairs admitted that 25.6 per cent of commune officials had received no training in administrative management, including computers. The rates in Hai Phong in the north, Kom Tum Province in the Central Highlands and in Vinh Long Province in the south were 34, 47 and 90 per cent, respectively.
The Ministry of Home Affairs aims to provide 100,000 commune officials each year with professional training. In the past three years more than VND165 billion (US$7.8 million) has been spent on achieving this.
Maybe costs could be cut by using the ninth graders!
Brown rice anybody?
While rice is the staple food for most Vietnamese, some people in the Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta have not eaten it for years but they still live healthily. They claim that they can stay fit by eating vegetarian food – no rice – and doing charity work.
Phan Tan Loc, 68, in Phuoc Thoi Ward, O Mon District, in Can Tho, said he started the diet when he was 22 by replacing meat and fish with tofu, vegetables and soya sauce.
"My family members eat vegetarian food at the beginning and the middle of each lunar month in accordance with custom, but I eat it all the time," he says proudly. "Since I turned 45, I could not eat rice although I tried," Loc told the Nguoi lao dong (Labourer) newspaper.
For the past three years, Loc has been eating the burnt rice found at the bottom of the pot. But he has now limited this to only a few pieces a day – plus copra, the internal "meat" from the coconut. He also drinks tea with sugar and claims to live and work normally, however, his bowel movements are so irregular that he only has to "go" once a month. This has puzzled doctors in HCM City who aren't sure if he is suffering from a strange disease.
Meanwhile, Nguyen Thi Lua, 74, living in Hau Loc Commune, Tam Binh District, the southern province of Vinh Long, says she has not eaten rice for 36 years.
She said that in 1960 she suffered from a liver ailment. In 1976 she was so ill she could not eat anything. After that, she found she could not eat rice again. She vomits if she tries.
Lua is on a diet of bread, noodles, vegetables and milk. She has breakfast and lunch and ignores dinner. "Although I do not eat rice, meat or fish, I still gain weight," she said.
What this all means, we are not sure. But the thought persists that if the vegetarians down south can't eat refined rice, why don't they try brown rice with its natural husks full of vitamins and minerals. In fact, why doesn't everyone. What's the point of eating healthy food with bleached out white rice lacking in goodness?
Too good to be true
Seven months ago, former deputy general director of National Television Tran Dang Tuan wrote a letter to the Minister of Home Affairs Nguyen Thai Binh to ask for permission to found a "Meals with meat" fund. This was to supply deprived hill children in the northwest with solid meat in their school diet of watery rice and soup.
Tuan's charity work was based on a business trip to the region in September last year when he saw children eating meagre rations at a boarding school in Suoi Giang Commune in Yen Bai Province. The former deputy director and some of his friends sent money to the school monthly with the wish that it be used to buy students some meat and solid food.
When he shared the story on his blog, hundreds of people joined hands to collect money for his fund. Determined to maintain the fund as a long-term project, Tuan set up documents to lay a foundation for the fund and sent them to the Ministry of Home Affairs in May this year.
However, last week, the ministry's Department for Non-Government Organisations said Tuan's documents did not follow proper procedures and thus had not been approved.
So far more than 5,800 students in nearly 50 schools in Yen Bai, Lai Chau, Dien Bien, Ha Giang and Lao Cai provinces have received support from the fund totalling more than VND5.4 billion (US$250,000).
It is work that any Government or Non Governmental Organisation should be proud of! — VNS