One of the exciting moments in a young woman's life is her marriage, but Hoang Thi My was certainly not looking forward to her impending nuptials.
In fact, she dreaded the event so much that she took the extremely rare step, especially for someone from the H'Mong ethnic minority community, to openly say she would prefer to die rather than go through with the marriage that had been decided for her.
Rarer still, she went public with her suicide threat in a desperate appeal for help from local authorities as well as a reporter from the provincial television station.
The Lao Dong (Labour) newspaper reported that the parents of both My, a ninth grade student residing in Son Lap Commune, Bao Lac District in the northern province of Cao Bang, and her unnamed fiance, had arranged for the wedding to take place on Wednesday, January 15.
My's suicide threat was rooted not just in her dislike of entering into a union with someone she did not love, but in fear of her parents' wrath as well as the financial burden they would have to bear if they had to comply with the old community tradition of returning to the groom's family three times the dowry of VND5 million (US$230) that they had already accepted.
My asked the reporter of the provincial television station to hide her from her parents, so she could escape the early marriage to someone she did not love, and continue her studies.
For the local authorities, including the police and communal People's Committee, the decision must have been easy, since the envisaged marriage would be illegal. They have pledged to do everything within their power to prevent the sad event.
Let's hope that the twist in this tale is that this brave girl inspires more of her peers in the community to resist unions that they are pressurised to accept in the name of tradition and custom.
Marriages are made in heaven, the saying goes, but as My told the local reporter, this one would have been "hell" for her.
Facing a Facebook block
In order to better manage teenage students after some stories about online bullying and scandals made the headlines recently, the Education Department of Ngu Hanh Son District in the central city of Da Nang organised a training course on online supervision for teachers of local secondary schools.
The course provided guidelines on how teachers could supervise their students' online activity, especially on social media. They were advised to add their students as friends on Facebook, thereby getting the opportunity, hopefully, to better understand the latter's problems and feelings.
Not surprisingly, the notion elicited mixed feelings. While some teachers said it was a good way for them to get to know their students better, their wards were none-too-impressed. Having teachers as their "friends" would make them feel supervised online, and would inhibit their freedom of expression because they would be afraid of being judged for their status and photograph posts.
Exactly, some parents and teachers would say (or feel). Exactly, this is the aim, to inhibit some freedoms that the youngsters, in the opinion of the adults, are not ready or mature enough to exercise.
But unless there is some surprising twist to this tale in the offing, the idea is a non-starter. While some teenagers said they wouldn't dare to refuse their teachers' requests to be added as their Facebook friends, others were flippant. They said they would simply "block" their teachers or set up another Facebook page for their "more private" activities.
Can anybody hear the NASA snickers? — VNS