Thirty schoolchildren in Ho Chi Minh City who were affected by the COVID-19 pandemic ignited their summer holiday by visiting cultural and historic destinations during a city tour on Wednesday.
They are elementary and middle school students in both inner-city and outlying districts in the southern metropolis.
The kids, who lost one or both of their parents to the pandemic, visited ‘Biet Dong Sai Gon’ (Saigon Rangers) Museum, located on the second floor of a house built in 1963 on Tran Quang Khai Street, District 1, and explored the Reunification Palace, among others.
They also had opportunities to make new friends, play games with each other, and receive gifts.
As these kids are from different groups of age and living in disadvantaged conditions, the tour organizer, including Thanh Nien (Young People) newspaper and the travel firm Vietluxtour, had made thorough preparations to ensure they could feel relaxed after the end of a school year and fully enjoy the tour.
One of the participants, Bui Thi Ngoc Phuong, residing in District 8, said: “I had so much fun today because I learned lots of interesting things and made new friends.”
Some kids showed their excitement when exploring secret tunnels serving as old revolutionary bases in wartime.
Ly Doan Tam, a student from Binh Tan District who described the tour as his first trip ever, said he wanted to visit all tourist attractions in Vietnam.
The organizer hoped that the trip could encourage the kids to express themselves more and share their feelings with others, in order to partly help them overcome their difficulties.
The organizer added that they would arrange similar trips for COVID-affected children in the upcoming time, with each having some 30 participants.
|Some students said it was their first trip to the Reunification Palace in District 1, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Hai Kim / Tuoi Tre|
In Vietnam, parents spend big on children’s education despite economic woes
No matter how expensive it is, many Vietnamese families willingly pay for their children’s education in spite of their tight money situation.
Vietnamese parents commonly seek the best education for their children while sacrificing their own needs, said Dr. Le Thi Mai Lien, head of the psychology faculty at the Ho Chi Minh City University of Social Sciences and Humanities.
Cutting down on all expenditures but for children’s education
As soon as her two children enter the new school year earlier this month, a 43-year-old woman named N.T.T., who resides in Phu Nhuan District, Ho Chi Minh City, had to calculate her family’s expenditure to balance their spending and saving.
After the COVID-19 pandemic, T. and her husband’s total income decreased by more than VND20 million (approximately US$818) per month, so they have to tighten their belt to stabilize the investment in their children’s education.
Years ago when their family was still financially solvent, they would frequently travel, eat out, go to the movies, and go shopping.
But at present, T. has to wake up early to cook breakfast for the whole family, lunch with food brought from home, and wander around the city during holidays without picking up anything.
Though T. could send her kid to many other schools or study programs at a more affordable price, she entrusted her bright first daughter’s future to the University of Economics Ho Chi Minh City’s International Business Department because “investing in education is like laying the foundation stone for a bright future,” said T.
The other child, who is a brilliant 10-year-old student, is taking courses at an exam preparation center to be able to attend a school for the gifted next year.
Meanwhile, N.T.M., 40, a resident in Ho Chi Minh City’s District 10, said she has furthered the investment in her two daughters’ education despite the family’s economic dilemma as “they are both in their senior year.”
“The first 18 years of a child’s life are extremely important because they decide the future. Parents may cut back on all investments, except their spending on children’s well-being and learning,” she said.
M. is also paying for her kids’ other extra courses namely piano, drawing, and English at the British Council.
The savings that she and her husband accumulated in the past have gradually been spent on their children’s schooling.
Saving by dwelling in dilapidated apartment
Like the two parents above, N.H.Q., 46, an average civil servant who lives at a deteriorating apartment building in District 3, also sinks money into her two children’s learning.
Instead of dwelling in a VND15 billion ($613,000) house, she and her husband opted for a degraded flat in order to save money for their children’s academic path, which costs up to VND1 billion ($40,900) per year.
The couple agreed to prioritize enriching their children with knowledge over costly assets like houses in the belief that good education investment results in bright prospects.
“Fortunately, the children understand their parents’ hearts and study hard,” Q. said proudly, thinking that their initial choice was right.
However, Dr. Lien said children who are provided with the best educational environment alongside adequate facilities are unlikely to thrive in the future without being equipped with self-reliance, the ability to address issues, or experiencing some hardships in their lives.
Young Japanese people undergo one-month apprenticeship in Vietnam
Eleven Japanese students traveled to Vietnam to receive vocational training at Cao Thang Technical College in Ho Chi Minh City for one month.
This is the first student exchange program jointly run by Cao Thang Technical College and Japan’s National Institute of Technology (KOSEN).
A training course by Nguyen Van Thong, deputy dean of the mechanical engineering faculty at Cao Thang Technical College, started to be attended by 11 young Japanese people in mid-September.
In his class, which includes both Vietnamese and Japanese students, Thong provides them with the fundamental principles of machines and practical skills. He uses English as the medium of instruction.
After some theoretical lessons, these students experience practice by operating machines and working on an industrial production line.
“I have spent a lot of time and enhanced efforts to prepare for the lessons in this vocational training course. All documents for the lessons were translated carefully,” Thong said.
“The Japanese students were eager to learn about broader knowledge. They raised several tough questions.”
“We have taught our students how to use various machines, including ones manufactured by Japan.”
The training course of mechanical engineering was part of the Japanese students’ one-month apprenticeship program.
They had earlier spent many days studying electrical refrigeration, and electrical and electronic engineering.
Kusunoki Takeru, who majors in electronic engineering, said that in Japan, students will take some technical and technology subjects before entering their major.
Despite having already studied mechanical engineering and electrical refrigeration, Takeru got deeper knowledge about these majors in Vietnam than in Japan.
Apart from macro-knowledge, the Japanese students were also taught about household electrical refrigeration.
“I can now repair refrigerators at home,” Takeru said.
Nguyen Huu Quyen, deputy dean of the heat and cold engineering faculty at the college, said that many experts from Japan’s air conditioner manufacturer Daikin Industries Ltd. were invited to the training course to upskill the Vietnamese and Japanese students.
Experiencing Vietnamese education, culture
Dr. Le Dinh Kha, principal of Cao Thang Technical College, said that the exchange of the 11 Japanese students is part of the international cooperation between the college and KOSEN.
Multiple Japanese students had visited the college earlier and engaged in some competitions.
However, this is the first time that Japanese students have come to study for one month, Dr. Kha said.
Besides learning technical subjects, these students learn English and Vietnamese language lessons.
The program is aimed at giving the foreign students educational and cultural experiences in Vietnam.
Toyosaki Haruto, whose major is mechanical engineering, is impressed by the college’s Vietnamese lessons.
The Japanese students are taught how to spell Vietnamese words and form basic sentences.
Haruto can now use Vietnamese to buy things and bargain with vendors.
“I also know a set of behavioral etiquette of walking, greeting, and communication in Vietnam. I am really excited about cultural lessons in such a technical college,” said Haruto.
Meanwhile, Torigata Ichita is pleased by out-of-school activities. They have been taken to numerous famous historical relic sites in Ho Chi Minh City, including the historic Cu Chi Tunnels.
Through sightseeing tours, they could feel the value of peace, and the loss and sufferings of wars.
“Some teachers invited us to join cooking courses where various Vietnamese dishes were cooked,” Ichita said, adding that Vietnamese dishes are tasty.
“On the other hand, we held some sessions to introduce Japanese culture to Vietnamese friends,” said the Japanese student.
Apprenticeship in Japan
Takeru said that the majority of Japanese students like going to university. However, those who cherish technical majors prefer vocational facilities to universities.
The number of young Japanese people taking vocational training courses is on the decrease.
Among them, outstanding students will be selected for a special apprenticeship program, called KOSEN.
KOSEN is a five-year engineering education program for students aged 15 or older who do not continue their high school education after graduating from a middle school.
The program provides students with higher education in engineering.
Engineering courses offered through KOSEN include mechanical engineering, electrical and electronics engineering, chemistry and biochemistry, material science, and information technology, said Takeru.
Students’ personal data sold publicly at cheap prices in Vietnam
Personal information, especially that of students from Ho Chi Minh City, is being traded on the Internet at very cheap prices.
In the role of a data buyer, a Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper reporter posted a request in a Facebook group with 8,500 members calling for a list of 10th graders who have just enrolled in Ho Chi Minh City, focusing on District 7, District 8, Nha Be District, and Binh Chanh District.
The post then immediately attracted three data suppliers.
A supplier named Dang provided 30 telephone numbers through Telegram, a messaging app, with each attached to the name of a student or their parents.
Though residing in northern Vietnam, Dang has information on students in Ho Chi Minh City. Most phone numbers provided by Dang are real.
“Without filtering data by district, each number is sold for VND7, while a filtered number costs VND10,” he said.
Another provider called Hieu affirmed he could immediately supply about 3,000 students divided into classes and schools, depending on the requested area.
However, the data may have some errors and need correcting due to new students’ incomplete information, he said.
Hieu then showed a data checklist including 9th graders in the 2022-23 school year, who will be new high schoolers in the following years.
Each row comes with gender, date of birth, phone number, student identification code, and the student’s full name.
He asked for VND2.4 million (US$100) for the list with each student priced at VND1,000 ($0.042)
Upon hearing that the price was only VND7 for a student, Hieu asserted, “That deal is definitely a scam. It can’t be that cheap.
“They must have given a few correct numbers for test calls. After transferring money, they may provide a wrong list or perhaps cut off contact right away.”
Meanwhile, a supplier called Long prioritized selling data in bulk for two reasons.
Aside from better prices, parents are the ones paying tuition fees, so it is more reasonable to call them first.
Long assured buyers of the quality of his data.
“Our data is collected right from schools. Besides, many English centers and summer camps acquire at least 10,000 numbers, but normally over 20,000 contacts from us during the peak season,” he said.
It costs VND300 for each datum when purchasing 5,000 telephone numbers, but buying 10,000 numbers only fetches VND200 individually, said Long.
|Sales of students’ personal information are all over social networks in Vietnam. Photo: Screenshot|
Personal data traded by schools
Each vocational education and training establishment usually buys about 100,000 students’ phone numbers in Ho Chi Minh City, focusing on 9th and 12th graders, said a marketer named M.Q..
“The probability of students being interested in is often low, but it is still one of the channels that help search for learners,” M.Q. said.
With the phone numbers, the marketing department scans Zalo, a Vietnamese chat app, and then runs advertisements for courses.
Students attracted by these advertisements will continue to receive text messages on the program.
In the meantime, a life skill training center in Ho Chi Minh City plans to collect customers’ personal data, employee T.L. said.
The information is gathered directly from schools, using the ‘win-win’ principle. The center will come to middle and high schools to hold mostly free events and competitions or offer gifts, and scholarships. They then require a list of its students in return.
There are three main sources that reveal student information, said director of the Athena Cyber Security Center Vo Do Thang.
The first source is the technical vulnerability in which schools’ data entry machines can be hacked to take away the data.
The second is from the data entry teams of schools. It is possible that some people in the schools’ data entry teams have backed up and released the information, he supposed.
Clusters specializing in data collection from many places aside from schools are also one of the reasons why personal information gets leaked.
Collections can be stored over many years, for basic student information such as names, parents, and even their phone numbers are normally consistent across educational levels, Thang said.
Data could also be exploited from prenatal clinics, he acknowledged.
The team obtains data on a group of children born in the same year along with their parents’ contact details.
These children will soon enter kindergarten and reach elementary schools where they must learn English, which means those data sets can be used for the next 10-15 years.
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