The young Vietnamese diaspora in Cambodia is facing a blockage in attempts to resume education at schools in Vietnam as the country’s borders remain under tight control due to the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
An Giang is a province in the Mekong Delta region of Vietnam with a shared border with Cambodia.
Due to the presence of a large Vietnamese community on the other side of the border, public schools in An Giang welcome every year a bevy of Vietnamese students who travel across the border from Cambodia for education.
Prior to the epidemic, the students could go to school in Vietnam and then come back to Cambodia within the same day.
With borders being put under strict monitoring in accordance with Vietnam’s COVID-19 prevention and control measures, these students are facing obstacles in attending Vietnamese schools which have been reopened since Monday.
Any person crossing the border from Cambodia into Vietnam is now required to undergo 14-day isolation at a centralized facility.
Tran Thi Ngoc Diem, director of An Giang’s Department of Education and Training, said on Monday that the province saw 363,000 students from 531 schools of all educational stages — except for pre-schools and kindergartens — resume classes on Monday after a three-month hiatus to hinder COVID-19’s spread.
The attendance rate for high school was 97.76 percent, while the figures for middle school and elementary school were 95.25 percent and 94.73 percent, respectively.
Most notably, there were seven students of Vietnamese origin living in Cambodia who have agreed to enter Vietnam and be quarantined at a centralized facility for 14 days as per regulations so that they could catch up with their schools’ curricula as early as possible.
“These students are receiving lessons through television, the Internet, and printed materials supplied by teachers to their quarantine zone. After the isolation period, they will be able to attend school again,” Diem said.
Thousands of other Vietnamese students in Cambodia can’t afford to do the same. They don’t have a place to stay in Vietnam to pursue education, even if they agree to undergo a 14-day isolation period.
According to the provincial Department of Education and Training, An Giang’s An Phu District, which borders Cambodia, had reported 1,254 Vietnamese students 'stuck' in Cambodia due to border control measures as of Monday, two hundreds of whom are in ninth grade.
Schools in the province have been conducting online classes, yet the average attendance rate in such remote schooling sessions has been a meager five percent.
Other provinces in the Mekong Delta also reported a considerable number of students who were absent on the first day of school reopening this week.
Long An Province recorded 1,629 middle school students and 472 high school students who did not show up in class on Monday.
The most common reason given by the students’ families for their absence was 'family business.'
On the first day of pre-school and elementary school reopening in Ca Mau Province on Monday, 94.77 percent of the latter's students showed up, with 3,560 marked absent.
The attendance rate was 67.6 percent among pre-schoolers, with 11,365 marked absent.
All 63 provinces and cities of Vietnam have announced plans to get students back to school, with most universities, colleges, high schools, and middle schools being the first to reopen from May 4, while pre-schools and elementary schools are set to follow suit later this month.
Vietnam has eased weeks of social distancing rules from April 23, but people are still required to wear face masks and avoid any gathering of more than 30 people in public places.
The Southeast Asian country has reported 271 patients to date, with 232 having recovered and no deaths.