|Kindergarten teachers in Mường Lạn Commune in the northern province of Sơn La persuade local parents to register their children’s births. — VNA/VNS Photo Hữu Quyết|
SƠN LA — Some children in the northern province of Sơn La lack birth certificates, putting them at a disadvantage at school.
Sốp Cộp District, lying on the province’s border (with Laos’ Luangprabang Province), is one of the areas with the highest number of children without birth certificates. About 140 of 16,000 students in the province who started school this year did not have birth certificates.
Most of them were kindergartners and primary school students living in distant and border areas. In Mường Lạn Commune alone, some 90 children are attending school without birth certificates.
Not having birth certificates creates disadvantages for children in school life.
Their school records won’t be kept, and they won’t be able to enjoy State support such as free lunch, tuition fee reductions, or allowances (if they come from poor households), said teacher Quàng Thị Hương from the Hoa Phong Lan kindergarten in Mường Lạn Commune.
“We often encourage their parents to get them a birth certificate, but it’s difficult because most of them are poor and have low awareness of the issue,” she said.
As a teacher working in a remote area, it’s part of Hương’s job to knock on doors to persuade parents to let their children go to school. Not knowing which year the children were born makes it harder for her to do the job.
“Some parents just forgot when their children were born, and we don’t have any other documents to tell whether a child has reached school age,” she said.
The main reason for the negligence is the parents’ lack of identity documents, according to Quàng Văn Cán, a civil officer from Mường Lạn. It is also due to the illegal practice of child marriage, under which a marriage certificate was never obtained.
“The Law on Marriage allows parents without a marriage certificate to register their child’s birth with the mother’s surname. And after they obtain a marriage certificate they can change the child’s surname to their father’s,” he said.
“But customary thinking prevents them from going for that option.”
Low awareness of the importance of a birth certificate also plays a part, said Tòng Thị Kiên, vice chairwoman of Sốp Cộp District’s People’s Committee.
“People here are not aware of the role that birth certificates and other identity documents play in a child’s life,” she said.
“They only think of getting them when they are asked to present those papers at hospitals, or when they have problems receiving incentives from the State because they don’t have those papers.”
Kiên said local authorities will continue to implement awareness-raising activities for residents on the issue.
They will pay close attention to households living in the border area, and hold mobile birth registration for children without a birth certificate in the district, she added.
“Local schools will try to make sure those children can enjoy the supporting policies while waiting for their birth certificates,” she said. — VNS