Poverty and a lack of parental support have forced many children in the Mekong Delta to drop out of school and face a very high risk of falling deeper into poverty.
Many children in An Giang Province sell lottery tickets or earn money from casual, low-pay jobs on the streets instead of sitting in class, Tuoi Tre reporters found during a recent visit.
Most of them stopped going to school after ninth grade and started helping their parents make a living.
Huynh Van Toan, who serves at a big restaurant in the province, said that his parents are too poor to pay for his education.
“It's impossible for me to study all the way to college,” Toan told Tuoi Tre newspaper.
A new study by the education ministry in September showed that the delta, the country’s largest farming region, has the highest dropout rate, which is nearly three times the national average.
The regional dropout rate at primary schools is 0.45 percent, compared to the national rate of 0.16 percent. For secondary schools, that is 3.26 percent compared to 1.37 percent, and at high schools it is 3.94 percent versus 1.79 percent.
The rates are higher than in the Central Highlands and the northern mountainous regions, which are the two poorest regions in the country.
Officials said that the delta has a wide rich and poor gap and that many people in remote areas have a very difficult life.
The inheritance of poverty
Thousands of classrooms in many parts of the delta are only built temporarily, the news report said.
At several coastal communes in Bac Lieu Province, many children of primary school ages are staying home because schools are too far away.
Their parents have to work and if the children go to school on a xe om motorbike taxi, it would cost the family nearly VND50,000 every day, an amount that can cover all family meals that day.
Vo Trong Huu, an official in charge of social affairs at the Mekong Delta Steering Committee, which is a government advisory agency, said the national and local authorities should make efforts to lift families in the lowest income brackets out of poverty.
At the same time, schools and teachers in remote areas should also be given more attention, he said.
Tuoi Tre newspaper has conducted a survey on 100 dropouts in An Giang, Bac Lieu and Soc Trang Provinces, and while 75 of them said their families were too poor, 19 of them said they felt no interest in studying and could not keep up.
The children said their parents are either illiterate or quit school at a very young age, and thus could not help them with schoolwork or give them any inspiration.
Figures from the education ministry showed that nearly 500,000 adults in the Mekong Delta cannot read or write, out of more than 1.3 million illiterate people from 15 years old across the country.
Some parents also cannot afford to send the children to extra classes.
“The more I studied, the less I understood. It got messy in my head and at some point, I quit,” a boy named Nguyen Van Thanh said.
The rest in the survey said that they dropped out because their parents moved for factory jobs in Ho Chi Minh City and nearby provinces and they did not have the residency status to attend schools in the new place.