Mixed feelings as HCMC parents consider kindergarten reopening

By Manh Tung   January 17, 2022 | 02:31 am PT
Parents are experiencing mixed feelings about taking their unvaccinated children back to school when kindergartens reopen next month as currently planned.

As reported earlier, HCMC will reopen kindergartens next month and the school year is expected to end at the end of July.

Preschool children will begin attending school in February as per parents’ wishes.

Tan Phu District resident Le Duc Dung, 37, said he was relieved after hearing the news about reopening. He has been struggling to care for his 4-year-old eldest daughter for the past four months after his wife has just given birth to their second child.

Dung works in a construction factory and has to travel for business 2-3 weeks a month. His wife, an office employee, has been out of work since the beginning of last year. When the fourth Covid wave struck Vietnam last April, he also had to temporarily stop working for three months and all preschools also closed at the same time.

Children at a kindergarten in HCMCs Cu Chi District in June 2020. Photo by VnExpress/Quynh Tran

Children at a kindergarten in HCMC's Cu Chi District, June 2020. Photo by VnExpress/Quynh Tran

His family had to rely their on savings and government assistance to get by.

After the city lifted its social distancing order last October, he returned to work and his wife opened a small grocery store.

But Dung's eldest child has been at home until this point. During the peak months of the outbreak, the child was almost never allowed to leave the house and spent the entire day glued to the phone in a cramped dormitory.

With the addition of a second child, the family's daily life turned upside down, because his wife had to care for both children while also selling goods.

Dung believes that reopening kindergartens is an urgent need, particularly for workers like him and his wife. It would meet child care needs, allow parents to return to work, and introduce some stability into their lives following the pandemic.

"We can't teach her as well as they do at school. I'm afraid if she stays at home all day, she will enter first grade without a strong foundation. Moreover, I think it is safer for her to go to school," he said.

Nguyen Thi Yen, from Go Vap District, whose 5-year-old daughter attends Soc Nau Kindergarten, also supports the city's decision to reopen kindergartens since the city has been classified as a low Covid risk area with a high vaccination rate.

"These are the factors that enable parents to send their children to school with confidence," the 33-year-old mother said.

Yen said staying at home for a long time traps children and denies them the opportunity to develop age-appropriate skills, and affects their personality and emotional development.

"My daughter wants to be able to see friends and teachers again. She was ecstatic to learn that she can return to school after Tet (the Lunar New Year festival which falls in early February)."

Yen admitted her happiness at kindergartens reopening was accompanied by worries about the possibility of schools detecting new Covid cases.

"Of course, I'm worried, but not too much. People must accept this possibility not only in schools, but also in any office or public place.

" I believe that schools have tighter safety measures, so going to school now is better than having children stay at home, which is an advantage," Yen stated.

Like Dung and Yen, many other parents want to send their children back to school, partly for the sake of the children, partly because they do not have the time or resources to care for their children at home.

Some parents who can afford babysitter prefer to wait 1-2 weeks for the pilot before making a decision.

District 12 resident My, 36, said that she had to send her kid to a privately owned nursery with 5-6 children for many weeks. She said the tuition fee was much higher than at regular school, and the children were only cared for, not educated.

"The risk of contracting Covid is the same whether you send your kids to school or a nursery. However, it is obviously better at school since they can get the education they need.

"But I'm still hesitant; I guess I'll wait until after Tet to make the decision."

Others said they have decided not to send their young children to school in February since they are still worried about the uncertainty of how Covid will develop in the city.

Tran Huy, from Thu Duc City, stated that his family will only send their children to school after the vaccination campaign for children aged 5 to 11 is carried out.

The real estate broker said he can still schedule the time to work and teach his children. "

"Though my daughter is about to start as a first-grader but I'm not in a hurry. It's fine if it takes her longer to study how to read and catch up with her peers. The most important thing is her health," Huy justified his decision.

Currently, the Ministry of Health is developing a plan to vaccinate children aged 5 to 11 against Covid-19, which will be submitted to the Government for approval, but the implementation date is unknown.

A teacher of Kids Club Kindergarten cleans up the classroom to prepare welcoming preschool children back in February 2022. Photo by VnExpress/Boi Linh

A teacher with Kid's Club Kindergarten cleans up the classroom to welcome preschool children back in February 2022. Photo by VnExpress/Boi Linh

HCMC has more than 1,360 preschools, 472 of them public, and 1,800 private nurseries.

It has more than 355,000 children aged three to five.

City officials said that the consensus for preschool children to attend school varied by region or area.

In District 1, for example, more than 40 percent of parents with 5-6 year olds agreed with the reopening; at 4-5 years old, this rate was 34 percent, and at 3-4 years old, more than 24 percent.

However, a survey carried out by Kid's Club Kindergarten system, which has over 1,200 parents in six districts, showed the consensus rate was more than 70 percent.

So far, only around 600,000 out of 1.74 million kindergarteners and students in HCMC have returned to school. As of Jan. 7, schools have recorded around 130 Covid-19 cases among staff and students.

An official with the municipal education department said: "Parents' concerns are understandable, as they were when 7-12 grade students returned to school. However, if preschools reopen for 1-2 weeks in a safe and effective manner, parents will gradually allow their children to attend school."

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