The photos and clips of children from a mountainous commune in the northern province of Quang Binh swimming across a stream with a swift and strong current to get to school grabbed nationwide attention.
The story evoked widespread concern, sympathy and anger.
People blamed local authorities for failing to provide the children with a safe way to go to school, saying their keenness on attending school despite the difficulties involved by itself deserved a bridge.
But, authorities of Trong Hoa Commune said they couldn't afford a bridge. They said they had asked higher authorities for help but failed to receive any.
This isn't the first time authorities in needy localities have cited the lack of funds for their failure to guarantee that their constituents, including little kids, have a secure life.
Students in a commune of the Central Highlands province of Dak Nong use roughly made rafts to cross a hydropower reservoir to get to school. Last year, local media reported that children in the Central Highlands province of Kon Tum had to sling themselves down a locally-rigged cable to get across the Po Ko River.
It is not that these dangerous modes of transportation have not had any major consequences to date. The failure to ensure adequate protection has led to the loss of precious lives in the past. A boat accident in the central province of Nghe An killed 19 students in 2006, and another one three years earlier in Quang Nam Province left 18 students dead.
Following such gut-wrenching reports, millions of people across the country would contribute money to build bridges for the students.
Even though people have helped their brethren out of sympathy, the government should also fulfill its responsibility when residents face risks in daily life.
If local authorities say they have no money to afford safer transportation means for people, then what is the government doing with its budget? Guaranteeing business projects' debts that investors should have paid by themselves. Planning a huge statue commemorating Vietnamese women whose children and husbands were martyred in the nation's wars. The memorial's investment now has climbed to VND410 billion (US$19.7 million), as was recently announced by Quang Nam Province. A tribute to heroic mothers cannot be argued with, but the government should look at its own priorities.
In this case, can we consider building a bridge now and a monument later? People will have no arguments with either project.
The government always claims that it is "of the people, by the people, and for the people."
Then it should give utmost priority to help little children who are risking their lives to get to school every day.