Vietnamese children and the “stolen childhood”

Published: 22/03/2011 05:00



VietNamNet Bridge – Never before have Vietnamese children had to live in conditions like today. The traffic is chaotic, petrol fumes are heavy, and cooking is unsafe, while children have to struggle against risks stalking at home and at school, or even in the increasingly scarce play-parks.

These are the words used by Professor Dr Le Thi Quy, Director of the Sex and Development Research Center under the Hanoi National for Social Sciences and Humanity, when describing the living and learning environments of Vietnamese children nowadays.

“The rapid life rhythm has led to the fact that parents do not have time to take care of their children. They are busy running after money and job promotions. Most children are locked up in rooms and they face four walls. No safe playing fields, no children’s cinemas. Children are only led to … supermarkets,” she continued.

Vietnamese children and the “stolen childhood”

Dr Quy said that a lot of children feel alone and they regularly witness violent behavior. At their homes, parents regularly have quarrels, or they carry out “cold war” just because of the lack of money. A mother in Nghe An province wrote a suicide note to her husband, and then she and her three children took pesticide to commit suicide. Several days ago, local press agencies reported that a mother in Long An province lit a fire in an attempt to kill the husband.

When children go out, they can face risks at any time. In Thua Thien-Hue city province, a 12-year-old girl was kidnapped and raped at a bus station. In Lao Cai province, a 7-year-old girl, who was playing with friends in front of a district’s People’s Committee building, was led to a room inside the building and was raped. A lot of juvenile girls have been sold into prostitution.

It is easy nowadays to recognize bloody needles on the playing fields reserved for children, in parks, or even in areas near schools.

At schools, many teachers apply an odd pedagogical method: they use violence to tell students to obey rules. A babysitter in Bien Hoa City bathed a child with lashes. A teacher in Dong Nai province slapped a child continuously when she was feeding the child, while another teacher in HCM City forced a child to eat the food he vomited before.

A lot of children have to struggle to live, though they are still very small. Many of them reportedly have to live like slaves. Hao Anh, 14, had to work for a shrimp hatchery farm in Ca Mau province, where he experienced a very miserable life. The owners of the farm reportedly used pincers to break his teeth, and put hot iron on his skin.

Meanwhile, disabled children have to lead a harder life than other children. A lot of children do not have the opportunity to learn and integrate into the society. Due to the lack of policies applied to disabled children, jobs and marriage are just distant dreams.

Who protects Vietnamese children?

According to the Ministry of Labour, War Invalids and Social Affairs, there are over 1.6 million Vietnamese children with special living conditions. If counting the children who are the victims of trafficking and child abduction and the children living in poor families, the number of children with special living conditions would be 4.3 million, or 18 percent of the total of juveniles in the country.

Vietnam was the first country in Asia and the second in the world to ratify the Convention on the Rights of the Child on February 20, 1990.

Vietnam now has a Department for the Protection and Care of Children. However, people still do not know which agency to contact when they have information about children abuse, except the police. There is a hotline that gives advice on protecting children, 18001567, which has been extant since 2004. However, the hotline remains unfamiliar to both adults and children, because it is too long and difficult to remember.

Vietnam also has the Association for Protecting Children’s Rights and the Club of Journalists Protecting Children’s Rights. However, few know how to contact the clubs.

In March 2011, the Prime Minister approved the national programme on protecting children in 2011-2015, which is expected to cost VND1755.5 billion. Though a lot of things still need to be done, the programme promises a brighter future for millions of miserable children in Vietnam.

Quang Hanh

Provide by Vietnam Travel

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