Student awards come with baggage
Updated : 07/04/2012 17:50 GMT + 7
Nguyen Ngoc Hai’s problems began after he emptied his savings to help students enter national innovation contests.
The problems only got worse after the biology teacher told reporters that after they won, he couldn’t afford to fly to Hanoi to claim the awards in early June.
The complaints, widely picked up in local media and eventually on a state TV station, provoked the ire of provincial officials in the Mekong Delta who accused Hai, 39, of “humiliating his hometown.”
“I don’t think I was wrong because I had reported the money problem to my school and provincial leaders,” said Hai, who lives in a poor, remote commune in Soc Trang Province.
Hai, a teacher at An Lac Thon High School, has spent roughly VND100 million (US$4,800) for the equipment and fees to enter 20 research projects into competitions in the last nine years. For their efforts, his students have won 19 prizes, two in first place and eight in third place.
Local reporters heard about their two prizes this year and interviewed Hai to help him raise funds for the trip to the capital.
The reports criticized Soc Trang authorities as turning a blind eye to local talents, even as they are winning honors for the province.
The provincial leaders shot back at Hai at an official meeting in June, saying his grumbling tarnished the image of Soc Trang.
Eventually, the news reports inspired donors, including a provincial official, to help the biology teacher.
Last year, under the sponsorship of local mobile phone operator Viettel, Hai accepted an invitation from Sweden to bring three students to the country to present a prize-winning project to absorb oil spills with cajuput tree skins.