Students in a south-central Vietnamese region have had to cross a river on a raft and canoe to obtain education for well over a decade, facing possible dangers to their personal safety.
In the early mornings of weekdays, ethnic-minority children in Son Ha District of Quang Ngai Province begin taking rides on a bamboo raft in order to navigate the river separating their middle school and villages.
The students, numbering around 53, must be good swimmers before they can stand on the floating structure.
“They can swim, so that they can get to the bank in case of falling off the raft. I won’t let them ride if they can’t swim,” said Dinh Van C’rac, who has spent more than ten years carrying local students in this fashion.
His hands have grown calloused from holding the cable deployed to enable the movement of the raft, whose passengers include both students and adults.
Local residents have used the raft for generations, and several years ago the government provided them with a small canoe ready in service when the floating structure fails to handle a large number of passengers, according to Doan Thi Chien, a leader of Son Bao Commune, part of Son Ha District.
The students are forced to be bound to one side of the river if its currents are strong.
Children who miss a raft or canoe trip are occasionally seen braving the river by themselves.
|A child swims across a river when the raft or canoe is unavailable, in Quang Ngai Province, Vietnam. Photo: Tuoi Tre|
The raftman C’rac said he is willing to stop receiving his monthly salary of VND1 million (US$44) for the service in the hope that a bridge will be constructed.
“When there’s a bridge, the children can go to school come rain or shine,” he said.
Official Chien said that local authorities have submitted to the higher administration proposals of having a bridge built at the place for a number of years, adding that such a structure is likely to be constructed at a cost of VND5 billion ($220,000) within the next two years.