Sunday, February 28, 2016

The challenge of helping ethnic minority girls finish high school ~ Guest blog by CEF staff Thuy

The number of ethnic minority high school students who leave school early is still rising because of many reasons, with one major one being gender discrimination.

The first reason they leave is because their awareness of the importance of education is still low. They haven’t seen the long term benefits of education so they don’t care about it. Both students and parents want to earn money to help their families and themselves. A few students can’t find work after graduating from college, or from vocation training, making the communities confirm their negative thoughts about education. Many of the ethnic minorities still have strong traditional customs, especially the belief in early marriage. Another important reason is the financial support of the government for minority students is not enough for their needs. Another reason is the poor quality education some receive and the lack of equipment and facilities of the schools in the mountainous areas compared to schools in the cities.

 Young ethnic minority girls who are mothers

Understanding this challenge of the girls in the mountainous areas needing to complete their education, CEF started a scholarship program for poor females from minority ethnic communities around in Phuoc Son district, Quang Nam province last year. We hope with our support this can help the girls continue and complete their schooling. We provide scholarships for the 26 poorest girls who also have attained the educational standard of ‘good’ or ‘fair’.  We also explain to them about the benefits and importance of completing their education and encourage them to complete their education.

After the first school semester the school results of most of the 26 girls has improved. We – the CEF team, are very happy and proud of these girls. However, we were very sad to hear the bad news from the school that among these 26 girls, there are 3 girls who quit school. The vice principal of the school we work with said, each year, there are about 50 students who leave school prematurely; this being 5%-6% of the total number of students at his school. Teachers try to encourage them to return back to school, sometimes with success. The students who leave mainly help their families to do farming work, and then they also get married early even though they aren’t old enough to legally get married.

Keeping ethnic minority girls in school is a big challenge which needs lots of effort and time from all sectors; from government, schools, communities and charities, and especially needs the co-operation of their families.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

On my home visits ~ Guest blog by CEF staff Quan

On many of my home visits to the children’s homes, I myself sometimes question how to change people’s minds about some of the old habits here; especially the drinking habit of Vietnamese men which has become a serious problem with many consequences.

My story below is one about an experience on a home visit and I feel it is hard to do anything to promote more awareness of this issue as it is the same situation for almost all male workers.

Just last week, I visited the family of a girl in Thang Binh who has been recently sponsored. Both of her parents have quite bad health problems. The mother had traffic accidents twice which damaged her legs and it has cost a lot of money for operations, while her father has suffered from spinal degeneration. The medical treatment and the education costs of their three children has put them into a very difficult financial situation with a big debt from the medical treatment for the girl’s mother.

Having known their challenging circumstances which already has stopped their first child from completing college, and having to work, CEF decided to help the girl who is in grade 10.

He seems addicted to alcohol because whenever we see him, he smells very strongly of alcohol. It is funny when you know what his answer will be as it is what most men here would say. I asked why he drank so often, as it seems he drinks every day and this is not good for his health and has an impact on his family financially. Guess what he replied? He said drinking some wine could help release his tiredness after a hard working day. I wonder is this true!? And well, I can say I never believe this. It does not make any sense that is creates any balance or even refreshes the body physically, and after wine people lose energy. However, this is happening in Vietnam throughout the country and leads to many social issues such as alcohol addiction, domestic violence, traffic accidents and other health problems such as cirrhosis. Also drinking is not an expensive past-time here, but still the family’s economy definitely gets impacted. In this particular case, it is totally not good to have the father drinking and putting his family under even more financial pressure.

Although we have explained to him about how bad this habit is and encouraged him to stop it, it’s unlikely he will stop unless he is really serious about stopping.

As drinking alcohol is a serious social issue, there should be education on a wide scale for all communities and this would gradually bring about more awareness on this subject. The Vietnamese government has introduced some policies to stop drinking, but it will actually require much more education still.