Posh Canadian kindergarten in Hanoi gives kids $1 meals: parents

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An international kindergarten in Hanoi charges fees of VND12 million (US$575) a month but gives its students meals cooked in an unhygienic kitchen by a private contractor that cannot cost more than a dollar or two.

Maple Bear Hanoi, which opened in Hanoi two years ago, attracts parents due to its fancy premises like at Vincom Tower and Golden Westlake building and promises of Canadian teaching methods.

But people who have their children studying in one of the city's most expensive kindergartens discovered the ugly truth after fighting to set up a meeting with school authorities on May 17, Lao Dong reported Tuesday.

They had demanded the meeting after finding out that the school bought food from Com Viet Company, which has a small kitchen on Giap Bat Street with dirty, fungus-covered utensils. A group of parents who ostensibly went there found cooked and uncooked foods kept together and a cockroach leg in a butter container.

A woman, who did not wish to be named, told Lao Dong, "My child has been studying at the school for two years, but has not gained any weight in that time and often had stomachache and diarrhea in the last year. Only now do I know the reason."

The school only pays the company VND48,400 (US$2.30) for each child's meals, which include lunch worth VND20,000 and two snacks, the parents were told at the meeting.

Indignant parents said not even nutrition experts can create good food for this money and that it was only enough for a meal at a cheap roadside eatery.

School authorities also admitted that since hiring the company in December 2010 their managing director had never set foot in the kitchen, while others had not checked since March.

The parents met with directors of CitySmart Company with runs Maple Bear school, but failed to get a satisfactory explanation.

Thomas Chen, the company director, apologized but claimed the school paid Com Viet almost twice the amount public schools did.

But the parents pointed out that public kindergartens only charged VND600,000 or less than $29 a month, and at least had their own, clean kitchens.

"We know that they open schools as a business, but we did not imagine they would place money so much above their conscience," said the parent of a two-year-old.

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