Creating a child-friendly learning environment in one of the poorest districts of Ho Hi Minh City

Today, we spent our first day with Save the Children in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. In the morning, we visited Save the Children’s office to learn more about the situation for children living in this mega city. Despite rapid economic growth, the country still faces several emerging challenges. Two main issues stood out.

First, corporal punishment is very widely spread and, even if legally prohibited, kind of accepted as an educational method both in schools and at home. A study from Save the Children and UNICEF conducted in 2005 showed that about 98% of all children are abused in their own homes and 94% in their schools. This inflicts physical and psychological damages.

Second, there are a lot of migrants in Ho Chi Minh City. Due to regulations it is very difficult—maybe impossible—for them to get officially registered as citizens. As a consequence, they and their families face discrimination when applying for jobs or public schools. The result: many migrant children cannot attend public schools.

On our way to the secondary school in the Go Vap district
On our way to the secondary school in the Go Vap district

In the afternoon, we had the chance to visit a secondary school in the Go Vap district to witness one Save the Children project that is carried out with support from the IKEA Soft Toys for Education campaign. This was a very exciting experience for all of us.

Pupils enjoying their break (school goes from 06.15-17.00, six days a week)
Pupils enjoying their break (school goes from 06.15-17.00, six days a week)

The children put a lot of effort into our visits. We took part in activities that they had planned to create togetherness. We were amazed by their discipline and their eagerness to learn.  Many of them spoke very good English—with just two English teachers for 1,500 pupils!

School project team with Save the Children and us (with the hats we received)
School project team with Save the Children and us (with the hats we received)

In the school, Save the Children runs an educational programme for teachers, parents and caregivers to train them on child rights and protection. Furthermore, they run a pilot where teachers, parents and children discuss corporal punishment together and, in the end, sign a big poster stating “Stop corporal child abuse”. This poster is now hanging very prominently in all the classrooms of this school. What a powerful tool!

Poster “Stop corporal child abuse” signed by teachers and parents
Poster “Stop corporal child abuse” signed by teachers and parents
The new pupils’ counselling room, which we supported to paint.
The new pupils’ counselling room, which we supported to paint.

To strengthen child empowerment, a core group of kids in the school has been selected to communicate child rights to their peers. They also encourage participation in the creation and decoration of the school’s environment—a garden as well as several fish ponds in their courtyard. Finally, they supported the set-up of a counselling room for kids and organise activities outside the campus. All these projects are taken as an opportunity to explicitly communicate about child rights and corporal punishment.

Sebastian planted three banana trees in the pupils’ garden. They will be ready to harvest in a couple of months.
Sebastian planted three banana trees in the pupils’ garden. They will be ready to harvest in a couple of months.
Loredana and Lorenz trying to put the fish back into the cleaned pond.
Loredana and Lorenz trying to put the fish back into the cleaned pond.

Now the day has finished. It brought lot of emotion and we have gained a little insight into how life in Vietnam is and how people with limited resources make the best of it. Great!

Tired after the work but ready for more action.
Tired after the work but ready for more action.

We are ready for the next journey tomorrow!! Follow us on our blog.

Katharina thanks the pupils for the amazing afternoon and hands over some small presents that the IKEA co-workers donated. 
Katharina thanks the pupils for the amazing afternoon and hands over some small presents that the IKEA co-workers donated.