Parents face dilemma with kids stranded in Covid hotspots amid new school year

By Manh Tung   August 27, 2021 | 01:12 am PT
Vo Van Lam cannot take his daughter from southern Dong Nai Province to HCMC with her new school year a mere two weeks away.

Lam, a resident of Phuoc Binh Ward in Thu Duc City, is worried his daughter would start her school year with online classes.

In mid-June, he sent his daughter to his grandparents' home in Dong Nai's Nhon Trach District to avoid the spreading coronavirus. A month later, he repeatedly wanted to bring her back to Ho Chi Minh City, but there was no way due to the city's extended social distancing campaign, requiring people to stay home and only go out for basic necessities like buying food or medicines or to work at factories or businesses allowed to operate.

"Online learning requires a computer or a smartphone, but her grandparents are in the countryside and they don’t have those devices. Even if they had one, my daughter still needs her parents to accompany her. Old grandparents are not familiar with technology," Lam said.

Rejecting online lessons, he then thought about applying for a class at a primary school in Nhon Trach. But his daughter is shy and does not have many local friends, not to mention the school is far from home.

"Perhaps I will give my daughter a break from school, waiting until I can bring her back to HCMC to study. I hope the city has a solution for students stranded in the countryside to return and keep up with their school year," he said.

A student attends an online class in southern Tien Giang Province. Photo courtesy of students parents.

A student attends an online class in southern Tien Giang Province, Aug, 24, 2021. Photo courtesy of student's parents

Echoing Lam’s opinion, Ngo Thi Thuy Hang, whose son studies at Tran Thi Buoi Primary School in Thu Duc City, has been anxious for more than a week as her son is stuck in central Binh Dinh Province.

Hang and her husband have shut their business for months due to the Covid-19 outbreak. But her family is still luckier than many others since they still have money to survive the lockdown.

In Binh Dinh, they have a computer and equipment for online classes, but Hang’s parents cannot supervise their son because they are not tech-savvy.

"I plan to send my son to school in Binh Dinh, they have accepted it. I’m waiting for the school in HCMC to help us with the transfer procedure so my son could return to school immediately when the epidemic is over," Hang said.

Requesting temporary enrollment in the countryside is an option many HCMC parents have taken as their children remain stranded far from home. But it is only feasible in areas where the pandemic has been contained. In localities like Binh Duong and Long An, parents find themselves in a "dilemma" as these provinces will also organize online classes, or delay the school year due to the coronavirus outbreak.

"Last year, when my children studied online for a few weeks, they couldn't concentrate even with my help. Now they are living with their grandparents - learning online is impossible," said a parent from Binh Duong.

Unable to let their children study online in the countryside or in HCMC, many parents have planned to let their children start the school year late. If the pandemic remains complicated until the end of the year, they will defer their children’s enrollment until the next school year.

Some other students are stranded in HCMC and cannot return to their hometowns to start their new school year.

Bui Quang Trong, 47, resident of Thu Duc City, decided to leave for Dak Lak Province in the Central Highlands after being jobless in Saigon for months.

"I have been in Saigon for more than 20 years, now my life is so difficult, I will not be able to live like this forever, so I decided to move my whole family to Dak Lak," said Trong, father of three children, the oldest a fifth grader and the youngest, still in kindergarten.

A primary school in Dak Lak has agreed to let his children study, but they cannot come to the province before the new school year.

While waiting for the end of lockdown, Trong and his wife let their children study online in Saigon.

Like many other migrant families, they cannot buy books and prepare for the new school year. In these tough times, according to Trong, finding ways to survive is more important this his children’s education.

The director of the Education and Training Department in a HCMC district said there are no official statistics, but each school, especially at primary level, has a few children stranded in the countryside.

"If parents can find a school in their hometown, we will quickly handle the transfer procedure. When the pandemic is over, HCMC schools will be ready to welcome their children back," he said.

By Friday morning, HCMC recorded more than 190,000 Covid-19 cases in the fourth wave. With the outbreak yet to be contained, teachers are preparing for online classes for students starting next month.

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