Ho Chi Minh City is facing an unprecedented educational crisis after it failed to anticipate a strong influx of migrant workers whose children require schooling.
New figures show that the city has 85,000 new students this academic year, with children of migrant workers accounting for more than half. The sudden surge is palpable in several outskirts districts, which have many factories that offer job opportunities for poor people from other places in the country.
The standard number of classrooms for a primary school in the city is 45, but a Tuoi Tre report noted that many schools in the districts of Binh Tan and Binh Chanh have had to build extra rooms to accommodate the new students.
Several schools now have more than 60 classes.
It is however much harder to find the teachers.
Nguyen Tri Dung, in charge of education management of Binh Chanh, said the district has only found half of the teachers needed for the new school year.
Ngo Van Tuyen, his counterpart in Binh Tan, said the high number of students has created "serious pressure."
At one class of a secondary school in the district, where the population has more than doubled to nearly 700,000 since 2003, only a fifth of the students are from the city. The rest are from the Mekong Delta, Hanoi or the nearby Nam Dinh Province.
The district's officials said they only expected to have that population in 2020.
Tuyen said many schools have had to squeeze more children into one room and cut the number of full-day classes.
“The playground, the gym and the library all had to shrink and that has affected the learning quality,” Tuyen told Tuoi Tre.
He said the district, which said it had spent VND1.46 trillion (US$65 million) building and expanding 31 schools since 2010, needs 25 new primary schools and several more secondary schools to give the students enough space and time for studying.
An official from Ho Chi Minh City’s Department of Investment and Planning said the population growth in Binh Tan is “terrifying.”
“It will be a big puzzle to find land to build the schools.”