HCM CITY — Pre-schools in the Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta are in serious need of major investments to improve their poor facilities and deal with a severe teacher shortage.
|A teacher sings with her students at Phu Huu Commune's Pre-school in the Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta province of An Giang. Delta provinces lack sufficient facilities and teachers. — VNA/VNS Photo Thanh Phan
According to the latest figures for the region's education sector, more than 4,000 classrooms are temporary or have been donated by local residents, accounting for more than 27 per cent of the total number. The national average for these kinds of classrooms is nearly 20 per cent.
Hau Giang, the poorest province in the region, has 1,400 classrooms that need to be repaired and upgraded. It is the only province with seven communes that do not have a kindergarten.
At least 215 communes in the Mekong region have no pre-schools.
Most of the temporary pre-schools do not have electricity, water, toilets or playgrounds. These schools are usually small and made of bamboo or wood on land donated by residents.
Pre-schools in other provinces in the region, including Can Tho, Vinh Long, An Giang, Soc Trang, Bac Lieu and Ca Mau, are in similar conditions.
Poor facilities and teaching conditions have made teaching a very tough job in these provinces, according to Nguyen Thi Cam Huong, a teacher from one of the kindergartens in Long My District in Hau Giang.
Huong said they lacked everything and the teachers had to produce the learning and teaching materials themselves.
Because of the poor teaching facilities, the pre-school education popularisation programme cannot be implemented, according to speakers at a seminar held recently in Hau Giang Province to discuss solutions to the problem in the region.
The programme, which was also discussed at the conference, promotes compulsory education for children from the age of five for the 2010-15 period.
The number of children participating in the programme in the region has reached only 64.6 per cent, more than 10 per cent lower than the national figure.
The lack of pre-school teachers is posing another challenge for the programme's implementation.
The region needs more than an additional 2,280 teachers. The number of teachers who have not met the educational qualification is still 15 per cent, much higher than the national rate of 5.8 per cent.
An Giang and Bac Lieu are the two Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta provinces that have not approved the programme, which has been being carried out in 11 other cities and provinces of the region.
However, the programme has not been implemented well in the region, as the 10 provinces and Can Tho City have not been active in mobilising capital sources for implementation, Nguyen Thi Nghia, vice minister of the Ministry of Education and Training, told the conference.
The region needs VND14.6 trillion (US$702 million) to implement the programme.
The slow disbursement of capital was another reason for the poor implementation of the programme in the Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta region, said Nguyen Hoai Thuy, deputy director of the Hau Giang Education and Training Department.
For example, Hau Giang has VND400 billion ($19 million) from the State budget to build pre-schools, but only VND60 billion ($2.8 million) has been disbursed.
Nghia told the meeting that the problem should be addressed by raising parents' awareness about the importance of compulsory education for five-year-old children.
The vice education minister also called for local administrations to view pre-school education as a foundation for improving education quality. This would also encourage the Government to make pre-school education a priority.
To address the lack of permanent pre-schools, Nghia asked local governments to give priority to land planning and investing in teaching facilities and materials.
Besides investment for facilities, Thuy said it was necessary to invest in the education of teachers. To do that, local education departments should work out their own strategies which fit their own needs. — VNS