Thousands of private preschools in Vietnam have had to shut down over the past two years as their owners failed to survive mandatory closures triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic.
During a meeting with the National Assembly in late February, Deputy Minister of Education and Training Ngo Thi Minh reported that more than 500 private kindergartens in the country had been dissolved.
The number would reach thousands if small-scale preschool units were taken into consideration.
In Hanoi, preschoolers have had to stay home since early May 2021 due to the serious COVID-19 outbreak.
The capital city is the hardest-hit locality in the ongoing outbreak, with more than 916,600 local infections recorded since last April.
As of early March, a large number of preschool owners in the capital city had decided to sell their facilities as they were on the brink of bankruptcy.
Among them, the shutdown of Tomokid Ham Nghi in Nam Tu Liem District has sparked a lot of concern among local parents, as the school has been referred to as a reputable institution with modern educational methods and good services.
Prior to this year's Tet (Lunar new year) holiday, which took place in early February, the school announced that it was looking for new shareholders in a bid to boost its capital, according to a parent.
|A slide is pictured at a closed preschool in Vietnam. Photo: Chu Ha Linh / Tuoi Tre|
However, the school eventually had to disband after the new landlord no longer provided it with a 50 percent discount in rental, while potential shareholders also shunned pouring additional funds.
Thai Hong, principal of a preschool in Nam Tu Liem District, said that the school originally had two facilities, each with an investment of nearly VND1 billion (US$43,700).
After ten months of temporary suspension due to the pandemic, Hong and her family had no choice but to dissolve one of the facilities.
The rent of each venue costs VND30 million ($1,300) a month, the principal stated.
“The landlord reduced the rate by 50 percent in the first six months of 2021 to help us overcome the financial difficulties,” Hong continued.
“However, the reduction was only 30 percent in 2022, and the recent spike in COVID-19 cases has shattered our hope for reopening.”
“We already mortgaged our house to get a bank loan in order to maintain one facility, so the other had to be closed.”
Similarly, Nguyen Thi Thanh Huyen, owner of Ong Viet kindergarten chain, also had to shut down one of her two schools.
As the school was unable to pay its teachers, only two of them chose to stay, Huyen continued, adding that tables, chairs, and other things have been severely damaged.
|Signs that read land for sale in front of a closed preschool in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Tu Trung / Tuoi Tre|
“If we keep both facilities, we won’t be able to afford the purchase and maintenance of equipment as well as wage payment for teachers.”
Owners of many medium and small preschools have been rushing to sell or transfer their facilities to larger chains with better financial capacity, said Hoang Thuy Hang, manager of Happy Time Kindergarten.
Notably, these medium and small schools used to meet the needs of parents with low income, she continued.
Hang believed that private preschool owners in Hanoi have suffered the heaviest toll brought about by the pandemic compared to those in other localities in the country.
Hanoi currently has 1,145 preschools with more than 525,000 students, according to statistics from the municipal Department of Education and Training.
Over 158,000 local children go to private preschools, accounting for about 30 percent.
The fact that many private preschools are shutting down poses a problem that lots of young children will find it hard accessing early education.
In Ho Chi Minh City, statistics of the Department of Education and Training showed that about 22 preschools and over 90 childhood education groups have been closed due to COVID-19.
Although kindergarten students in the southern city were allowed to go back to class in early February, many schools are still struggling to maintain their operations.
The lack of students is also another reason for their shutdown, as a survey by Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper showed that most schools can enroll only 50-60 percent of students compared to the past.