JavaScript is off. Please enable to view full site.

​Uphill both ways: Vietnamese students brave jungles, snakes for a shot at education

Thursday, May 03, 2018, 18:03 GMT+7

Ethnic-minority students have long been the subject of harrowing tales recounting school commutes laden with dangerous mountain climbs and river crossings in Vietnam. 

For one group of ethnic-minority students in the northwestern region, the distressing commute comes in the form of a six-hour-long jungle trek, over streams and along cliffs, to make it between school and their isolated village.

Every weekend, the students of Hang Dong Middle School, a boarding school for underprivileged children in Bac Yen District, Son La Province, begin the treacherous journey back to the misty, remote village of Lang Sang.

The risk these students take for their education is high – 30 kilometers of jungle paths laden with venomous snakes and blinding fog along a path situated just inches away from steep cliffs, all without the aid of drinking water.

“Students can bring some food, but no water because it would be a burden during the uphill climb,” said Thao A Vu, a 33-year-old teacher at the school.

“I’m really sympathetic to them. Many adults baulk at entering the village through the jungle, but the children are forced to do it regularly.”

Students walk along a dirt road in the mountains of Son La Province, northern Vietnam. Photo: Tuoi Tre
Students walk along a dirt road in the mountains of Son La Province, northern Vietnam. Photo: Tuoi Tre
Students walk along a dirt road in the mountains of Son La Province, northern Vietnam. Photo: Tuoi Tre
Students walk along a dirt road in the mountains of Son La Province, northern Vietnam. Photo: Tuoi Tre

The first half of a recent journey consisted of the children walking along the trail and crossing several shallow streams. Then, the students reached the jungle separating them from their village. 

Temperatures in the forest quickly dropped from the already frigid seven degrees Celsius measured at the foot of the mountain.

As freezing winds rustled showers of biting precipitation from treetops, Vu hurried the students through the cold, all the while keeping an eye out for venomous snakes and centipedes along the path.

The school does its best to prepare the students with survival skills that may help them prevent and mitigate the dangers of any animal attacks and flash flooding that might occur during the journey, such as using leaves from nearby trees to stop the spread of venom after a victim is bit.

Children study in groups while resting during their school commute in Son La Province, northern Vietnam. Photo: Tuoi Tre
Children study in groups while resting during their school commute in Son La Province, northern Vietnam. Photo: Tuoi Tre
Children study while resting during their school commute in Son La Province, northern Vietnam. Photo: Tuoi Tre
Children study while resting during their school commute in Son La Province, northern Vietnam. Photo: Tuoi Tre

Most ethnic minority families in Son La Province live well below the poverty line – a situation which forces many parents to keep their children from attending school.

Teachers from Hang Dong, therefore, often visit their students’ homes to persuade parents to continue allowing their students to attend classes.

“Many students are forced to quit after middle school because their parents have passed away or their families are extremely poor. I feel sorry about their situation but don’t know how to help them,” Vu said.

“People in Lang Sang are so poor that they don’t have enough food to eat. They are also isolated from modern life, so they are slow in developing awareness,” said Dang Ngoc Phuc, the vice-principal at Hang Dong.

“The students are different though. They learn just as quickly as their urban peers.”

Students hide from the cold in blankets a boarding school in Son La Province, northern Vietnam. Photo: Tuoi Tre
Students hide from the cold in blankets at a boarding school in Son La Province, northern Vietnam. Photo: Tuoi Tre
Students work the land in Son La Province, northern Vietnam. Photo: Tuoi Tre
Students work the land in Son La Province, northern Vietnam. Photo: Tuoi Tre

Like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter to get the latest news about Vietnam!

Thai Xuan / Tuoi Tre News

Read more

;

Photos

VIDEOS

Experience summer sand-boarding in Mui Ne

Sand-boarding, a popular activity amongst local children in the coastal tourism town of Mui Ne in south-central Vietnam, is attracting hundreds of tourists to the Red Sand Dunes

Young maple trees given better protection as Hanoi enters rainy season

The trees are currently growing well, with green leaves and healthy branches.

Hunting skinks for food in southern Vietnam

Skink meat is known to be soft, tasty, and highly nutritious.

Vietnamese-made app allows people to grow real veggies via smartphone

Nguyen Thi Duyen, a young engineer in Hanoi, developed the app and its related services to help busy people create their own veggie gardens.

Chinese tourists hit by Vietnamese over dine and dash

Four Chinese were reportedly injured, with one having a broken arm.

Latest news