by Trung Hieu and Minh Linh
Every afternoon, around 4.30pm, Nguyen Thi Lan, a bank employee in Dong Da District of Ha Noi starts getting worried. She waits for her boss to leave office, and then rushes off to pick up her daughter from school.
Nearly every day, her little daughter cries because the mother arrives late to pick her up.
It's a problem that numerous middle class couples with school going children are facing today in the country. Juggling professional and personal lives factoring in the schedules of their children has become a crucial and imperative element in their day to day lives.
Most of them cannot ask their grandparents to look after the children, and also cannot hire domestic help. During summer, many children have to attend different extra classes so their school schedules overlap. That is why transporting their children to school and back home has become a huge problem for many parents.
"My daughter finishes school at 4.30pm, while my husband and I are allowed to leave our offices at 5.30pm and 6pm, respectively. It takes us about 30 minutes to reach her school, so we are invariably late," Lan said.
At 4pm, Nguyen Phuong Thao in Nguyen Chi Thanh Street of Ha Noi, hurriedly switches off her computer and rushes out of her office.
Her office is in Thanh Xuan District while her husband works in Hoan Kiem District. They have two children, who study in different schools, around 10km from each other.
"If my children were studying at the same school, it would be much easier for us to take them to school," said Thao.
The second child leaves school at 4pm so Thao often pick her up first, then comes back to collect the older son. After transporting the two children home, she rushes back to work.
"Once, I picked up my son first and then the daughter because that was more convenient. When I reached her school, I saw her standing alone at the gate. Since then, I haven't dared to come late."
Thao said on the days when her husband picks up the children, he often does not bring them home. He takes them to his office, and they all come back home by 7 or 8pm."
In Ha Noi, of the numerous schools that have their own buses to transport students many are private schools that have very high tuition fees. Since most people are average income earners and civil servants, they often let their children study in public schools. So for them, to see parents picking up their children is quite common.
Transport is a problem in the morning, as the children's school schedules often clash with the working hours of parents. So many parents drop children to school first and then go to work.
However, the children finish school in the afternoon when their parents are still at work; so many parents have to leave in the middle of work to pick up their children.
Similarly, Hoang Anh from Tay Ho District said he also faced the same problems.
"My wife and I work for foreign companies, so working hours are very strict. We had to hire a xe om (motorcycle taxi driver) to pick up our son, but we would be worried because traffic was quite dangerous," he said.
As the saying goes "Cai kho lo cai khon" (roughly translated as 'Necessity is the mother of invention', or 'want is the mother of industry'), the service of transporting children to school becomes a solution to this problem.
Hoang Anh last month registered with a company that picks up and babysits children after school hours.
Director of the Than Thien (Friendly) Transportation Services Company in Tu Liem District, Pham Van Hiep, said the company has a "shuttle service" to transport students by "friendly motorcycle taxis" that charge by distance.
To ensure the accuracy of the transport time and safety for the children, when customers choose this service, a contract between them and the company clearly states the terms of the agreement, rights and obligations of both parties.
"Initially, the staff will have a trial run for the distance and freight. The contract value will be calculated by the freight of the test run, multiplied by the number of times in a month we transport the child," said Hiep.
Many job promotion centres that have also launched shuttle services publish advertisements that say: "We transport your children in time and carefully" and "Cheapest service price, the best quality and the most professional service".
Thao approached the children's transport service of the Gia An Services and Manpower Company in Tay Ho District of Ha Noi.
"After due consideration, I chose their pick-up service for children combined with domestic help service (from 4pm to 8pm).
"Since using this service for VND30,000 (US$1.2) per hour, I have peace of mind at work," she said.
According to the company's Deputy Director Nguyen Hong Phuong, in summer months, the number of clients wishing to hire someone to take their children to school, to babysit and be domestic helps has increased compared with other months.
"The reason is, during summer, parents often let their children take extra classes for development of their aptitude, and since their school time is shorter the schedule to take them to and from school also changes," she said.
"Currently, the company receives about 30 clients a week, of them approximately one-third wish to hire the transport services for their children.
"Many clients also choose the combined service of both transporting children and tutoring them in English, writing and mathematics".
However, many people are still worried about the quality of service as well as safety of their children who use this service.
According to Le Mai, who works for the Ministry of Finance in Ha Noi, her family used to hire a motorcycle taxi to take her two children to school.
"But traffic nowadays is so hazardous, and at times so dangerous that we do not feel secure until they reach home," she said.
Mai said parents should carefully study the services offered by companies and then select the reputable ones.
"The companies should have records and specific contracts with the workers who directly transport the children," she said.
However, using this service is still more convenient than hiring a student or a motorcycle taxi driver to transport the children because the company staff can ensure the correct time, she added. — VNS