HA NOI — Dragon Years are a busy time for babies. Every parent hopes to have a child, especially a son, born in the year of the dominant animal in the oriental pantheon.
|A nurse takes care of newborns at the National Hospital of Obstetrics and Gynaecology in Ha Noi. Increasing birth rates in the Year of Dragon not only makes hospitals overcrowded but also influences the education and healthcare systems in the future. — VNS Photo Truong Vi
In Eastern Oriental opinion, people, especially males, born this year will be more intelligent and have bright and successful futures.
Long, as the dragon is known in Vietnamese, represents the ruling forces of the universe including the water cycle - the movement of water from streams, lakes and seas to mist, clouds, rain and eventually down the mountain streams back to the beginning. This is why the dragon is so often depicted in the clouds, rising out of the sea or whispered to be slumbering beneath long mountain ranges.
But while 2012 may be a good year for families with a dragon child, it is not so good for the increasing sex imbalances developing between male and female babies.
Nor is it a good year for the overloaded education system which will have to start thinking about providing more school classes for children born in this dream year for fortunate families.
Nguyen Thanh Van, living in Ha Noi's Dong Da District, expects her baby this April. Many of her friends and colleagues also plan to have babies this year.
"The pre-natal check-up room where I have my health check every month is much more crowded than two years ago when I had my first baby," Van said.
Moreover, most women coming to the room ask doctors for an ovum ultra-sound to choose a good day for producing a boy.
"All of my friends and colleagues have had prenatal ultra-sounds confirming that they will have sons," said Van.
Worrying that the hospital may be overcrowded this year because of the influence of the dragon, Van booked a good room even before Tet (the Lunar New Year) holiday.
Indeed, many doctors and health experts are afraid that hospitals will be stretched to the limit this year.
Vu Thi Lua, the head nurse of the Ha Noi Hospital for Obstetrics and Gynaecology, said that in the past fortnight, more than 300 babies were born in the hospital, a 30 per cent increase compared with the same period last year.
"This Tet holiday, we were more busy than in recent years as a great number of women are having their babies," she said.
According to the Ministry of Health, in the first six days of the lunar Year of the Dragon, from January 22 to 28, a total of 13,450 babies were born across the country.
And, not surprisingly, Nguyen Van Tan, deputy director of the ministry's General Office for Population Family Planning, predicted there would be more boys than girls.
In an average year, the nation's population growth rate hovers around 1.2 per cent. However, in 2000, which was also a dragon year, the rate was 1.4 per cent.
"The 12-year cycle can lead to sex imbalances in the marriage market and workforce. Schools and universities can also tend to become overloaded," he said.
At present, the sex ratio in Viet Nam is 111.2 boys to 100 girls. In Ha Noi, the rate is a high 116 boys to 100 girls, according statistics.
It is forecast that by 2050, the sex ratio throughout the nation will be 113 boys to 100 girls - making 12 per cent of men surplus to marriage needs.
"So," said Tan, ""It is necessary to have a policy encouraging parents to have daughters to make up the difference."
School leaders are also concerned about the overload on primary schools in six years' time.
Le Thi Kim Oanh, principal of To Vinh Dien Primary School in Ha Noi's Dong Da District, said six years ago when the children from the 2000 Year of the Dragon came of school age, she had to open three more classes for them.
On average only 40 students are in a class in the capital city, but in that year, classes swelled to 50.
Teachers found it hard to keep discipline in classrooms and the quality of study noticeably declined, she said.
"Parents should pay more attention to educating their children and making sure they have a good chance to get married than choosing a good year to bear children," she added. — VNS