Heartbreaking dropout letter of Vietnamese student points to perils of poverty

By Le Hoang   October 8, 2016 | 04:00 am PT
Heartbreaking dropout letter of Vietnamese student points to perils of poverty
A worker loads paddy onto a boat for a customer at Co Do Agriculture Company in the Mekong Delta city of Can Tho. Photo by AFP
The boy doesn't want to leave school but he has to take care of his sick parents.

Social media has been filled with sadness and frustration in recent days with a story of a seventh-grader in northern Vietnam who has decided to drop out of school because his family is too poor.

Quach Van Truc from a small commune in Thanh Hoa Province sent a letter to his teachers this week, explaning why he could no longer go to class.

In the handwitten letter of great poignancy, Truc said his father has pneumonia, his mother has heart conditions and his family has run out of rice.

“I don't want to leave school at all. But these times are hard and now I have to take care of my parents,” he wrote.

“I will miss you guys a lot,” the child addressed his friends.


The boy's letter. Photo by VnExpress

Truc, who has a younger brother, was quoted by Thanh Nien newspaper as saying in an interview that all local hospitals have turned down his father because the family does not have money. He is also in the last stage of chronic kidney disease.

“I’ve always wanted to become a doctor, to treat my dad myself,” Truc told the daily in tears.

The boy said by dropping out, he wanted to give his brother a better chance to finish school.

Teachers at the school, located in one of the poorest communes in the province, have raised VND200,000, or nearly $10, to help their student. They also gave the family 20 kilograms of rice.

But the teachers admitted this is not a long-lasting solution.

Local radio reported that the province on Friday offered VND5 million ($225) to the family.

The boy’s story has been shared widely on Facebook, drawing criticism of social policies in a country where education is highly valued but is not always afforadable.

Despite various supports for low-income families, Vietnam still sees more than 1 percent of the country's 22 million students drop out of school and college every year, mostly due to poverty, according to official data.

Many have said the use of public money should be reviewed and tightened because wasteful public projects continue to be funded while many children are left behind.

A recent report from the General Statistics Office said more than one million Vietnamese people are living in hunger. They are among 1.4 million households, or 6 percent of families in the country, who are living under the poverty line, or earning less than VND4.8 million ($215) a year per capita.

A new policy effective later this year will redefine poverty as earning less than VND8.4 million ($374) a year per person. This new threshold is expected to raise the ratio of poor families in the country to 10 percent, or more than 2.3 million.

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World Bank gives Vietnam's education reform a boost with $95 million loan

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