Schoolgirls fight, again

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Online footage of yet another brutal schoolgirl beating has resulted in just two suspensions and myriad questions

       

Images extracted from online video footage depicting a schoolgirl in Lam Dong Province brutally attacked by her schoolmates, on January 11. Several such clips have gone online during the past year most of the assaults began as minor disagreements.

Quynh Anh became upset when she saw footage of four Vietnamese schoolgirls slapping and kicking a fellow student as she struggled to deflect their blows.

"This is so heartbreaking," said the teacher from Lam Dong Province. "It's a great shame for the [country's] education system."

By the end of the clip, the girls had pulled off their victim's T-shirt and bra, leaving her half-naked.

The fight occurred on January 11 and the attackers were later identified as ninth grade students at the Tran Phu School in Lam Dong Province's Duc Trong District.

It was unclear when the clip was first posted on the Internet, but the school management board became aware of the assault on January 19, when a local resident sent a teacher a link to the footage.

According to a report issued by the school, the fight broke out as the students were riding home from a football match. The students attacked their victim, identified only as H, because they believed she had said bad things about them behind their backs.

On January 25, the school's disciplinary council decided to suspend two of the students, Sy Thao Nguyen and Hoang My Quyen, for two weeks citing their involvement in previous fights.

The four other students, including the daughter of a district police official and two teachers' daughters, received an official rebuke.

The footage was just one of several clips portraying similar student beatings, particularly among girls. During the past year, clips like the Lam Dong beating have sparked concerns across Vietnam about a breakdown in family values within the rapidly modernizing society.

Last November, similar footage appeared on the Internet depicting three schoolgirls in Hanoi kicking another girl for three minutes and attempting to remove her shirt.

Several such clips have gone on the Internet before. Most of the fights began as minor disagreements.

Spoiling rods

Psychologist Nguyen Thi Tam, Director of Hon Viet (Vietnam) Insight Applied Psychology Company in Ho Chi Minh City, slammed today's parents for having failed to educate their teenage children.

"There has been a deterioration in ethical norms caused by a trend of handling issues violently," she told Thanh Nien Weekly. "Moreover, children today suffer from a culture that continues to embrace the "˜spare the rod, spoil the child' mentality."

She said many parents have left their children's personal development entirely to teachers.

"They are growing up without parental guidance in a society flooded with brutal images," she said. "It's not surprising to see an increase of violence among them."

Tam said students have always engaged in minor scrapes but, recently, things have become more brutal.

"Youth can no longer differentiate between real and deceptive values," she said. "They want to draw attention to themselves, no matter what the cost."

She slammed the media, including Internet and newspapers, for inspiring copycat behavior.

"The media should portray these tragedies as shameful and that they shouldn't be copied," she said.

Tam also called for far stricter punishments for such behavior.

Investing in the future

The United Nations has called for better protection of adolescents in Vietnam.

According to their State of the World's Children findings, released on February 28, Vietnam is home to 26.7 million adolescents and young people aged 10 to 24-years-old. They account for almost one-third of the population.

"There is limited family support, social assistance and psycho-social care for young people, and those in contact with the law," the report found.

Late last month, UNICEF Vietnam Representative Lotta Sylwander said that Vietnamese youth are facing "a unique set of challenges" and that "adolescents and young people will need to be equipped with the skills and knowledge to contend with [these challenges]."

The UN Vietnam panel urged partners to come together and invest in adolescents and young people by creating a supportive environment for adolescent rights, enhancing access to social services and fostering forums and spaces for youth participation.

In addition, the panel highlighted the need for the government to invest in education and training for young people, create decent job opportunities and improve the implementation of policies and law.

"Stakeholders at all levels in Vietnam must work together to ensure that adolescence truly becomes an age of opportunity," Sylwander said.

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