Two rural Vietnamese students have been admitted to college but they greeted the achievement less with happiness than with misgivings about how their poor families live in days to come.
Dao Kim Ngan, in Dong Thap Province of Vietnam’s Mekong Delta, has had an opportunity to study at university but was reluctant to seize it due to financial difficulty.
“I really love learning, and really want to continue my education but I was feeling uncertain about the decision because I was just afraid my father couldn’t feed the whole family by himself,” Ngan said, referring to her father as the breadwinner.
Her parents are agricultural laborers who have sweated blood to pull the family out of poverty and break the vicious circle of poverty and lack of education but in vain so far.
The mother, Nguyen Thi Nguyen, has developed breast cancer and had ill health chiefly from bearing six children because of ignorance of family planning methods – a reality common in remote Vietnamese areas.
“I gave birth to too many children, one after another in a short time. The family is always cash-strapped. That’s why I can’t give them good education and food,” the woman in her fifties said.
Ngan’s three eldest siblings are now manual workers after dropping out, while her two other ones are college students.
To have money for tuition fees, Ngan has recently been making false eyelashes at home, a meticulous job that demands constant attention but averagely gives a modest VND20,000 (US$0.8) after every 12 hours.
The mother said she was determined to send Ngan to college, for she wanted her young children to escape poverty.
The woman shrugged off the view that she was trying to put on airs, made by some people who thought the decision would end up as a pipe dream.
Ngan received love and admiration from teachers and peers since she possessed a noteworthy academic performance despite the disadvantaged background and had never been late for class, even on rainy days when she arrived at school drenched after pedaling on the devious dirt path that stretches to the main road from her house.
In another case, a female student named Truong Thi My Hieu, from Ninh Thuan Province, worried that her family will encounter more problems after she leaves home to study at a medical college.
|Truong Thi My Hieu takes care of her father at their house in Ninh Thuan Province, south-central Vietnam. Photo: Tuoi Tre|
Hieu’s father, with mental illness, usually stays awake at night and wanders off from home when unattended, which means other family members have to walk around the village to fetch him.
The man goes by the nickname ‘egg-incubating Trung’ because he warms chicken eggs with his body after catching sight of them.
The mental disorder happened to him around five years ago, before which he was working excessively hard to earn money for house repairs.
Hieu’s mother rides a motorcycle to the workplace around 15 kilometers away, where she receives VND100,000 ($4) daily by pulling out duck feathers.
The job, which has already given the mother calloused fingers, is becoming increasingly difficult since she has spinal column degeneration and insufficient blood flow to the brain.
Hieu’s parents own no land for farming, a great disadvantage in an area where agriculture is the dominant means of livelihood.
The family, which currently includes Hieu and four young children, seem to live from hand to mouth as they have no breakfast, enjoy lunch as the main meal and end the day with a supper from rice and instant noodles, used as soup.
After school Hieu used to care for her father, do all the housework, feed pigs and poultry and work part-time as a waitress at local restaurants and coffee shops.
As she was about to get into college, her mother became busier borrowing money from various people to pay her tuition.
One of Hieu’s younger sisters, a tenth grader, is expected to take up her role when she is away for higher education.