Our day starts off in the bustling Ho Chi Minh City, where even an early start means the tooting of scooters zooming in and out of the traffic coupled with the taxis and cars.
We headed to two schools in the rural areas of Cu Chi District, both focusing on highlighting children’s rights amongst teachers, children and parents. The amazing aspect of these initiatives is seeing the great engagement from the children who, even from a young age, understand their rights and that they are also responsible to stand up for themselves.
The first school, Phuoc Hiep Primary School, has 830 students—many of whom come from the local farming area. They are in Phase 1 of Save the Children’s programme to create stronger relationships between the triad of teacher, parent and child to bring about changes related to corporal punishment and child abuse. The school will continue into Phase 2 between 2017 and 2019. The most significant contribution of the programme is influencing is the education policy of the school, which has been adjusted to be in line with children’s rights. They have made big strides in training teachers on child protection for poor children and child rights awareness activities.
We spent time with the children, doing activities like decorating and playing various games, in between the warm smiles, sparkling personalities and genuine happiness to welcome us.
The second school we visited was An Nhon Tay secondary school, where the focus was on communication methods to promote children’s rights, what corporal punishment really means and how it is interpreted. The highlight was witnessing the signing of the triad commitment where the teachers, students and parents sign a big poster, which gets hung in the classroom as a reminder of their commitment.
The impact of the programme in this school can be seen in the passion of the teachers and the bringing together of people to make positive movement. The creativity is quite moving and emotional to see; how the talent in the school provides an opportunity to progress the child rights programme. The activities will be moved forward through parent meetings and various semester meetings, to ensure the message is repeated to raise awareness.
The highlight of the day was participating in a food fair where students are raising money for their peers who are in challenging circumstances. The event raised 10 million Vietnamese dong (around €375), which will kick-start the fundraising to help students who have been identified as living well below poverty levels. The activity also teaches students to look out for one another.
The evening finished in true Vietnamese spirit, with a mid-autumn festival event. The dancing moon goddess dazzled us, whilst the dragons danced in sync keeping us entertained and glued to their superb performance. Three hundred children from poorer families were also gifted with food parcels, all supported through the IKEA Foundation. The sweet finale was the lantern ceremony, nicely ending what can only be described as an energetic and soul-enriching day.
Children’s rights awareness, covering corporate punishment and the prevention of all forms of abuse against children, is well on its way through the existing programmes. There is so much genuine energy from the staff delivering these programmes from Save the Children, with the support of the IKEA Foundation, without which none of these amazing impacts would be possible.
We leave Vietnam with such a sense of hope and excitement for the next chapter and in the words of one of the principals we met today. “I hope that you will continue to remember the Vietnamese children but that one day these very children make positive impacts that help you all.”
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