Viet Nam News
HCM CITY — A class called “I Can Say No” at the Nguyễn Văn Trỗi Primary School in HCM City’s District 4 is teaching first graders how to handle inappropriate touching by adults and other children.
William Wong, lead trainer at EQ Cup, an organisation providing training for parents, teenagers and children to unleash their academic potential, says that children who “say no” to someone touching their body should be respected.
According to Vietnamese custom, relatives and strangers typically hug, touch or kiss children, but parents and relatives may feel ashamed if the child refuses.
During the class session last Friday, students learned about specific areas of the body that should not be touched. They were also taught skills that could help protect them against sexual abuse and acknowledge their feelings about being unsafe.
Phạm Hoàng Bách, a first grader at Nguyễn Văn Trỗi School, said that trainers encouraged the students to speak to their parents and tell them when they feel uncomfortable or unsafe.
Phạm Thị Thúy Hà, the school’s principal, told Việt Nam News that information about children being sexually abused has been published recently in the media.
“Parents of the school’s students are worried and have suggested that schools invite an expert to teach skills to protect their children. I agreed to do so because I think it is a good initiative,” Hà added.
In previous years, only third to fifth graders learned about the issue, she said.
Kiều Tuệ Minh, a fifth grader at Nguyễn Văn Trỗi Primary School, said: “It has been interesting to learn about gender and ways to protect myself.”
Nguyễn Minh Phương, whose two daughters study at Nguyễn Văn Trỗi Primary School, said after a training session that she attended: “I learned one more method to help my children have a deep understanding about this issue.”
“I always teach my daughters about their body parts and skills to prevent people from touching them,” Phương added.
At Nguyễn Bỉnh Khiêm Primary School in District 1, gender education is offered to all students at the school.
Nguyễn Thị Thu Vân, a first grade teacher at the school, told Giáo Dục Thành Phố Hồ Chí Minh (HCM City Education) newspaper that students were not afraid of the teaching.
The school’s leaders have also invited paediatricians to talk to students.
Vân said that teaching gender issues and helping first graders distinguish body parts and skills to protect themselves were important, particularly as they enter puberty.
However, few primary schools in the city hold classes on this subject.
Phan Thị Yến, former principal of Trương Quyền Primary School, said the Ministry of Education had launched training programmes for fourth and fifth graders, but more teaching programmes were needed for first, second and third graders.
Tô Nhi A, lecturer in psychology at the HCM City College of Education, said that many primary school leaders had turned down offers by the trainers to speak at their schools about gender issues. — VNS