Depleted by pollution disaster, families struggle to get kids to school

Thanh Nien News

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Many children from Ha Tinh know that the chance of their getting back to school is low. Photo: Duc Hung/VnExpress Many children from Ha Tinh know that the chance of their getting back to school is low. Photo: Duc Hung/VnExpress


Summer is over but nearly 1,000 children from Ky Ha, a fishing community in the central province of Ha Tinh, cannot return to school just yet. 
Still reeling from the effects of an unprecedented toxic spill linked to Taiwan’s Formosa, many families along the central coast are now waiting for government assistance to be able to think about education again. 
Nguyen Thi Huong, a mother, said locals have deserted their salt fields and boats since tons of dead fish washed ashore along the coast in Ha Tinh and nearby provinces in April, creating a seafood scare across the country and taking away the livelihood of various fishing communities.
“Four of my kids should be in school but in tough times like these, they just have to stay at home,” she said, as cited by VnExpress.
Huong said she has asked the authorities to waive the school fees. “Then I can send them back to school.”
The mass fish deaths are believed to be Vietnam’s worst environment disaster ever. More than 200,000 people, including 41,000 fishermen, have been directly affected.
Although the central government last month announced that the sea is now "safe," a Ha Tinh local said fish and salt from the province are still "very hard to sell."
Formosa, which has been held responsible for the disaster, last month completed a transfer of US$500 million as compensation to the Vietnamese government. The latter is working on a list of affected people, before it can begin doling out the fund.
Some of the children who have to stay home, ranging from kindergarten to secondary school ages, said they are excited about going back to school.
But even they know that the chance is low.
“My parents have not been able to go fishing for months,” one of them told VnExpress.
Local officials said they have agreed to reduce the tuition fees for children from affected families by a third. They said there might be meetings to discuss further support later this month.
In the meantime, the wait for these families continues. 

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