Students live in poor conditions while dorm managers are powerless to help due to a lack of funds
A student in his dorm at the HCMC Technical Education University. Cracks in the wall have been covered with paper in an attempt to stop leaks.
Part of the ceiling collapsed at the dormitory of the Ho Chi Minh City University of Medicine and Pharmacy a few days ago.
Luckily, no one was hurt.
"It won't be long before it happens again," said Mai Ngoc Yen, a student living in the dorm. "The ceiling has been leaking for a while and the room floods every time it rains."
Most college dormitories throughout the city are not properly maintained, leaving students mired in poor and dangerous conditions.
Parts of the University of Medicine and Pharmacy's dormitory, which houses around 2,000 students in 300 rooms, were built over 40 years ago. Many rooms have serious leaks and cracks have started to appear in the walls.
Dinh Ngoc Linh, a student living in one of the older sections of the dormitory, said they have to use water that is heavily saturated with alum. "New clothes are ruined after washing them only a couple of times. To keep them looking good, we have to take them to a launderette, but we don't have money for that luxury."
The newer parts of the dormitory are not in much better shape.
Nguyen Hung Thinh, a junior, said his room had a leak several months ago and the dorm managers only came to fix it when he and his roommates kicked up a fuss.
"The main door and the bathroom door have been broken for a while but they are still to be fixed," Thinh said.
At the HCMC Banking University dormitory in the outlying Thu Duc District, only around 17 percent of students in the dormitories stay in good rooms, said Nguyen Quoc Hung, chief manager of the dormitory.
Those rooms are located in the VIP section and students have to pay VND300,000 (US$15.40) a month instead of living for free like other students.
As Thanh Nien reporters witnessed, around 160 girls live in rooms that don't have a ceiling fan or a window; the floors are damp and the ceilings are old.
Ngoc, a junior, said the rooms are dark and stuffy. "There's not a single hole for light to enter. So we have to leave the lights on day and night."
Nguyen Thi Tuyet Nhung, a sophomore, said she's afraid they'll all develop rhinitis someday as the fiberboard that makes up the ceiling is rotten. Dust falls from it every day.
Meanwhile, students at the HCMC Agriculture and Forestry University have to share old public toilets outside their rooms. There is only one part of the dormitory, built a couple of years ago, which has space to air clothes. Students living elsewhere hang their clothes outside of their windows.
Danh Huong, a freshman, said there are times dry clothes on the lower floors get wet from all the water dripping off the clothes from the rooms above.
Huong also complained that the rooms were dark and old with rickety wooden bunk beds.
"If the school wants students to perform well, it has to provide us with good living conditions."
Conditions at the HCMC Technical Education University, also in Thu Duc District, are even worse. Cracks line the walls of most of the dorm rooms.
Many students at HCMC Education University dormitory in District 11 said the drains in the toilets didn't work properly and the tiles had come off the wall years ago, but managers had made no effort to fix anything.
A temporary fix
When confronted with the problem, dormitory managers said they can only fix the worst problems.
Nguyen Ngoc Dinh, chief manager of the dormitory of the HCMC University of Medicine and Pharmacy, said they only dealt with problems concerning the electricity and water supply to meet the urgent needs of the students.
"For heavy maintenance work like fixing a leak or painting rooms, we have to ask for money from the Ministry [of Education and Training]."
Dinh went on to say that the current dormitory building is temporary as the school is planning to build a new one.
Tran Van Huy, a dormitory deputy manager at the University of Natural Sciences, managed by Vietnam National University HCMC, said the school gives maintenance money to the dormitory every year but it's only enough for small problems.
"If we want to improve everything at once, we would have to ask the students to leave and we would need a great deal of money from the national university."