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Vietnamese sixth-grader proposes end to schools’ balloon release tradition over environmental concerns

Saturday, July 27, 2019, 09:00 GMT+7
Vietnamese sixth-grader proposes end to schools’ balloon release tradition over environmental concerns
Students are pictured at a school-year opening ceremony with balloons at an elementary school. Photo: Tuoi Tre

A sixth-grader has made headlines in Vietnam after she sent an email to principals of over 40 schools in Hanoi asking to end the balloon release tradition that takes place during annual school opening ceremonies, citing concerns for the environment.

Nguyen Nguyet Linh, who will begin sixth grade at the Marie Curie School in Hanoi in September, wrote in her e-mail on Wednesday that she had done some research and found that balloon are made of rubber.

“When balloons are released, they can be accidentally swallowed by birds and other animals, blocking their digestive tract and causing them to die from hunger,” Linh wrote.

“If the balloons end up in the ocean, sea turtles and other sea animals can mistake them for jellyfish,” she added.

“Ribbons and rubber bands used for tying up balloons can also choke these animals and kill them.”

The sixth-grader proposed ending the long-standing tradition of releasing balloons during schools’ opening ceremonies, which is popular in Vietnam, especially among kindergartens and primary schools.

“Or may I suggest at least reducing the number of balloons being released?” she asked.

A screen grab of Nguyen Nguyet Linh’s e-mail she sent to headmasters of schools in Hanoi, Vietnam.
A screen grab of Nguyen Nguyet Linh’s e-mail she sent to headmasters of schools in Hanoi, Vietnam.

Linh wrote that her generation is very concerned about environmental issues and she sought support from headmasters across the Vietnamese capital city in putting an end to the eco-harmful tradition.

Nguyen Xuan Khang, headmaster of Marie Curie School, told Tuoi Tre (Youth) on Thursday he had received Linh’s e-mail.

Khang said he was deeply moved by her concerns for the environment and had sent a reply to the student.

Balloon releases have often been regarded as a “lavish” tradition by schools in Vietnam without much thought put into its impacts on the environment, Khang said.

He said he had decided his school’s upcoming opening ceremony will not include any balloon release, as per Linh’s wish.

“I hope our meaningful actions will trigger similar responses from other schools,” Khang wrote in his reply to Linh’s e-mail.

Marie Curie School, named after a prominent Polish-French female scientist, offers classes from grades 1-12 for students in Hanoi.

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