No after school care leaves HCMC parents harassed

By Manh Tung   January 19, 2022 | 05:03 pm PT
No after school care leaves HCMC parents harassed
A woman drops her daughter at a high school in HCMC's District 1, December 2021. Photo by VnExpress/Quynh Tran
With most HCMC schools not allowed to accommodate students after their morning classes, parents are using their lunch break and other ruses to take them home.

When on-site classed began for his 8th grader daughter, Duc Huy, a technician for an IT firm in District 1, had to shift to working from home in the morning so he could drop her off and pick her up from school.

For many months, his daughter had been studying online. However, when the southern city allowed students from the 7th to 11th grades return to school about two weeks ago, Huy and his wife had to find ways to take her home at noon as her school, the Linh Trung Middle School in Thu Duc City, would not accommodate students after classes.

Huy's wife, an office worker, ends her shift at around 11:30 p.m. so she cannot take her daughter home after the latter's morning classes end at 11 p.m. For the first few days, Huy had to leave work early to bring his daughter home. They ate lunch outside, and Huy had to travel another 15 km from home to get back to work on time.

"My lunch break lasts two hours, but most of it was spent going back and forth between home and school. I always had to rush to reach office on time," Huy said.

Huy eventually requested his boss that he be allowed to work from home to save time. While his request was accepted, his usual schedule would resume after the upcoming Tet holiday and aligned with the rest of the company.

"I hope that after Tet, schools will start accommodating students after class to relieve the burden on parents. All activities in society have resumed, so school restrictions should also need to be relaxed," Huy felt.

For now, over 600,000 students from 7th to 12th grades in HCMC have returned to school for in-person classes. But prevalent coronavirus prevention criteria prevents most schools from hold full-time in-person classes.

In the past, when students were allowed to have lunch and rest at school, parents only needed to drop them off in the mornings and take them back home at the end of a work day. With this facility not available now, parents have to take them home at noon or bring them to class early in the afternoon, which upsets their usual work schedule.

Hoang Mai, 40, has two children in 8th and 11th grades. She is desperate for schools to resume accommodating students at noon. Mai, who lives in Binh Thanh District, said her two kids have different study schedules.

"My older child studies in the morning so I take him to school and either take him home at noon or let him catch a motorbike taxi. My younger one is small, so we don't dare to let her go on her own," she said.

Having to drop her kids on and pick them up has been an exhausting exercise for Mai, and hot weather conditions worsen the situation. She would get to work drenched in sweat.

"If this situation lasts for two long, parents will be overwhelmed. Sometimes, I am so tired and just want a nap at noon, but can't."

Lam, 45, whose daughter is in the 7th grade in Thu Duc City, also wants schools to start accommodating students after classes. He takes his daughter to school at noon, but when work does not allow him, he asks a neighbor for a favor. Asking neighbors to help getting kids to and from school is a common occurrence in his neighborhood, Lam said.

"Once Tet is over, it will get even busier for me. I would have to travel more often, so it will be hard to drop everything to pick my girl up. I believe schools should start accommodating their students again," he said.

While most students finish morning classes at 11 a.m., many have to wait until noon before their parents show up. Street food stalls have sprouted up around schools as a result, allowing children to have quick lunches on the roadside.

Parents aren't the only ones who want schools to let students stay back after classes. School administrations also want it.

"We can't receive tuition fees now, and without accommodating students after school, we have no income source. It's hard to pay salaries for security guards, cleaners and health workers," said a representative of the Phuoc Kien High School in Nha Be District.

Of around 500 schools that have been allowed to reopen, only a handful can accommodate students after classes on a trial basis. At the Nguyen Du Middle School for example, around 300 students have been able to stay back at noon starting last November. So far the trial project has been widely supported by parents, the school said.

Le Thi Oanh, head of the Nha Be Department of Education and Training, said the district is now allowing certain schools to accommodate students after noon. More schools could be allowed to do so in the future, she added.

Cao Thanh Binh, head of the Culture and Society Committee of the HCMC People's Council, said his agency will work with the municipal Department of Education and Training and the Department of Health on a post Tet holiday plan to let schools accommodate students after their classes until their guardians can pick them up.

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