Viet Nam News
ĐẮK NÔNG – “Every week, dad sends us a bag of rice and money to buy food,” said Ma Seo Hòa, one of several students from isolated areas in this Central Highlands province who travels far from home to study and lives in a boarding house. “In the early morning, my sister cooks for the whole day. We eat anytime we can, not together.”
Without any help from parents, Hòa and peers are struggling with boarding life.
Hòa totally depends on his nine-year-old sister who studies at a nearby primary school. After class, he plays with his friends in a spring behind school and eats rice his sister cooks before. When there is no more rice, they eat instant noodles—or simply fast until they can get food again.
Living in the same boarding house with Hòa is Vàng A Chính. Besides school work, he also has to take care of his five-year-old sister Hạng Thị Công. They share a tiny bed in the crowded room.
“Each person can sleep on the bed for one night. We only tuck up in bed together on frozen days. After school, I cook food, do laundry and collect wood,” said Chính.
Parents of more than 40 Dao-ethnic students at Trần Bội Cơ Primary School in Đắk Môl Ward, Đắk Song District rent houses near schools for their children to stay while they study.
The residential isolation during the rainy season makes it difficult for them to receive food from outside. They happily share a common meal with rice, tiny side dishes and a big bowl of vegetable soup.
“Despite the poor living conditions, we enjoy our boarding life. It’s free since we can do whatever we want, either studying or sleeping,” said fifth grader Đặng Chòi Lường.
In addition to the shortage of food, those students also have to cope with other serious issues.
Mai Thanh Tịnh, principal of Nguyễn Bá Ngọc Primary School, said that the local volunteer team guided boarding students to do homework and clean the area weekly. Their parents also assign one person per week to check in on them, but not frequently. They largely depend on themselves.
Poor diet causes illness. Many times teachers have to spend their own money on food and medicine for their sick students.
Moreover, Nguyễn Thị Hải Yến, principal of Trần Bội Cơ Primary School said that the toilet in the school site of E291 village does not work because of the poor construction and shortage of water.
“We can only take care of students when they are at school. Due to the bad living conditions, they are often absent, wandering around asking for food. Fortunately, the school has invested in building a new dormitory. We hope that it can reduce the number of dropping-out students,” Yến added.
Đỗ Ngọc Khánh, principal of Quảng Hòa Secondary School, raised concerns about the state of local boarding houses where boys and girls must stay in same rooms. Although sex education is integrated into the curriculum, it offers a little help.
Besides that, he worries about students’ safety. Lacking parents’ guidance, they may become easy targets of criminals. – VNS