It is the fate of children of workers at many industrial parks and export processing zones in Ho Chi Minh City and surrounding locations.
From an early age, a lot of them must live far from home and are lucky to meet their parents once or twice a year, or live in overcrowded kindergartens to stay with their parents every night.
The situation has been created by the boom in labor-intensive industrial parks in recent decades.
There are dozens of such places in Ho Chi Minh City, plus others in nearby provinces like Dong Nai and Binh Duong.
On average, each industrial park needs nearly a hundred thousand workers, exceeding the supply of the communities in which they operate.
So the majority of workers there are ‘internal migrants’ from other provinces in the central or northern regions, living in rented rooms around their place of work.
The cluster of such a large number of emigrant workers creates a burden on social services in those localities, resulting in a lack of kindergartens and other services.
Residents living around Tan Tao Industrial Park in Tan Tao A Ward of Binh Tan District, Ho Chi Minh City often use spare rooms in their house or build new rooms in their gardens to board workers.
Nguyen Thi Hoa, 27, from the north-central province of Thanh Hoa, is a boarder in the area.
“I worked for a garment factory in this industrial park for five years before I stopped working to have my daughter after my maternity leave expired,” Hoa said.
“I don’t feel safe to send her to the nearby kindergarten because it’s overcrowded and I fear she is not well treated.
“And I can’t either bear missing her if I send her to my parents’ hometown hundreds of kilometers away.”
She said, “We now keep our daughter at home after sending her to the nearby kindergarten for four days.
“Once, my husband came in the evening to take her home but couldn’t find her.
“He went around and into a restroom and saw our daughter left there with her waste stained all over the body.”
Just a couple of babysitters take care of dozens of kids in a ward, she added.
But Hoa admitted that she will keep her daughter until she is six years old and send her home to go to school in the north-central province of Thanh Hoa.
An emigrant worker like her has no status for her children to be admitted into a public school while sending the girl to a private school costs too much.
Her monthly salary is VND3 million (US$133) and her husband’s is only slightly better.
Hoa is among rare cases in the boarding area of Tan Tao Industrial Park that agree to stop work to take care of their infant children.
Those willing to cease working to look after their infants often run a small grocer’s shop at their boarding room to make some extra money.
Following is the calculation of another worker in the boarding area.
“I can earn VND3 million a month by sending my child to kindergarten to go to work but it may be no more than the costs of medicine and the nursery where they are inadequately cared for,” the worker said.
Thus, the fate seems to be preordained for kids of emigrant workers at those industrial parks – living far from parents or living in overcrowded nurseries.
Whatever the choices, it is a long way for a child of six to go back to their hometown for school at that tender age.
To rectify the situation, the People’s Committee of Ho Chi Minh City issued a decision in the middle of last month to require that industrial parks have enough space including boarding rooms for emigrant workers and sufficient kindergartens for their kids.