Tran Cao Quanh has spent more than 10 years providing education for children with special needs and joining hands with his colleagues in going to great lengths to help their students even amid COVID-19.
As a freshman of the department of educational psychology at Hue University in Hue City, located in central Vietnam, Quanh never thought that one day he would be working with special needs children.
His vision at the time was to become a university lecturer or a high school vocational teacher in his hometown.
Unexpectedly, Quanh was selected for a special training program with German special needs education experts.
He has been in close contact with autistic children ever since and his passion for the job has slowly built.
Simply a calling
C. is the mother of seven-year-old P., a child diagnosed with autism at the age of two.
Every single morning, P. would not be willing to leave his mother’s side to step in class unless teacher Quanh was there to welcome him.
Amid his shrieking and crying, the 32-year-old teacher appeared, saying, “Has P. come already? Come here with me, boy!”
By instinct, the autistic child let go of his mother’s hands and flung himself into Quanh’s arms.
“Many [special needs] children are rejected by kindergartens because it is hard for them to blend in with their peers,” said Quanh.
“They should not be subject to such discrimination.”
His first job recommendation was to be a practitioner at Tinh Truc Gia – a vocational center for disabled teenagers in Hue City, which is the capital of Thua Thien-Hue Province.
However, it was the age group that concerned the young man.
“How about younger children diagnosed with autism?” he wondered.
“With timely intervention, they will have a much better chance of socialization.”
Quanh left the job at Tinh Truc Gia and came to the Early Intervention Center in Hue.
This center provides diagnosis and admission to autistic children two years old and above.
A job of joy
There are over 20 autism-affected children at the Early Intervention Center. They are placed in two groups.
The first group is mostly newcomers who learn fundamental self-catering skills.
The second group – the preschoolers – practice writing and reading.
As COVID-19 struck, the center had to close following instructions from the provincial authorities.
School suspension was a major concern for teachers, according to Le Thi Kim Anh, director of the Early Intervention Center.
Their children run the risk of a drastic psychological and biological change over the break, causing rehabilitation a possible challenge.
The teachers, therefore, have decided to visit their children at their private homes to make sure their education continues.
“We are fortunate to have such devoted teachers like Quanh and Cuong,” Anh said, referring to another teacher.
“They don’t mind the lengths it takes to help the kids.”
Providing this service in the home requires extra preparation on the part of the teachers, according to Quanh.
In case of children’s bites or self-harm behaviors, the teachers are on their own to dissolve the tension.
During his decade of hard work, Quanh and his colleagues have experienced serious injuries from the children’s scratches and bites.
“Once I was carrying this speech delay kid to class when he suddenly bit me in the ear,” Quanh recalled.
“It was bleeding.
“It hurt for a week.
“There’s still a scar there.”
“Did you ever think of quitting this job as it’s so intense,” a reporter from Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper asked Quanh.
The teacher acknowledged the pressure from the daily loud noises.
“But if everyone thought of it this way, then what would happen to the children?” said Quanh.
“Who would go to the front line if everyone was scared of death?”
The job, however tough, brings him joy.
Looking at a child sitting next to him, he said, “I cried big when he enunciated ‘dad’ and ‘mom’ for the first time.
“The child was diagnosed with delayed speech.
“Another child who developed speech late made it to first grade after several years with us, and he even did very well academically.”
Quanh is married to his colleague, Tran Thi Hong. They hosted a simple wedding reception with the presence of their own autistic children.
“Perhaps it’s these children that brought us together,” said Quanh.
“It felt strangely happy to see their smiles at our wedding party.”
A vocational center for special needs children
There is currently a shortage of environments for autistic children to transfer to after their successful intervention, according to Anh, director of the Early Intervention Center in Hue.
She further explained that the majority of intervention schools in Hue are private businesses, which are not sufficiently funded to establish vocational centers for the children.
“Besides intervention in their behaviors and provision of knowledge, we try to find vocational partners so that the children can learn a trade,” said Anh.
“In the long term, however, I hope the authorities in Thua Thien-Hue Province will build a vocational school just for autistic students.
“That will pave the way even more for their socialization.”
Vietnamese foreign language center owes teachers’ payment for two years
Teachers at a foreign language center in Vietnam have recently complained that the establishment has failed to settle their remuneration payments for nearly two years.
Having many branches in Ho Chi Minh City, southern Binh Duong and Dong Nai Provinces, and central Da Nang City, the Saigon Vina Foreign Language Center (SGV) signs contracts with teachers for short-term courses, lasting less than three months each, with remuneration payment supposed to be made at the end of the courses.
However, many teachers have complained that they have not been paid for nearly two years.
S., a teacher at a SGV branch in Tan Phu District, Ho Chi Minh City, said he had repeatedly asked the center to pay up, but all he received were empty promises.
The center kept postponing the payment date, claiming that there was no source of income.
Meanwhile, all leaners are usually required to fulfill for their tuition fees at the beginning of each course, S. added.
Another teacher said she had spent the past months trying to claim VND30 million (US$1,300) worth of remuneration owed by the center.
“They promised to pay all of the money within one month if I agreed to teach one more course, but I have not received any penny up to date.”
H., who teaches Chinese at a branch in District 4, said her last course at SGV ended about two years ago, but the center still owes her VND12 million ($522).
N., another victim, said he has managed to claim VND4.5 million ($195) out of VND30 million ($1,300) after multiple “aggressive attempts.”
Another teacher said SGV has been paying him a small amount under VND1 million (VND1 million = $43.5) each month, but still owes him about VND10 million ($434).
The teacher also showed his text messages with a SGV accountant named Hung, who cited that the center had run out of money and had to borrow from multiple sources in order to pay its teachers.
During a conversation in February, Hung said that there was no source of income as no learner had signed up for weeks due to the pandemic.
In order to solve the issue, many teachers said they are planning to file a collective petition to competent authorities.
Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper reporters have been unable to contact any SGV leaders but a representative.
SGV still exists and may be able to pay all of its debts in the future, the representative stated.
“If you make a bigger deal out of this situation, we may end up declaring bankruptcy, and no debt will be settled,” he added.
Forged higher education diplomas openly on sale on social media in Vietnam
Advertising their services in broad daylight, forgery service accounts on social media are promising fake degree certificates with identical design and stamps from those issued by top universities of Vietnam — for the cost of just a few million Vietnamese dong. (VND1 million = US$44).
To investigate these clandestine operations, a Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper reporter went undercover and telephoned a man who claimed to provide certificate forgery services on social media.
The person quoted VND4 million (US$174) for a bachelor’s diploma, while a master’s degree could cost VND10 million ($436). Payment is only required when the final products arrive at the customer’s location.
As if to clear the unspoken doubt in the buyer’s mind, the enigmatic trafficker ascertained that his forged diploma would come with ten notarized copies, plus an academic transcript.
“Don’t worry, they can’t be detected with the naked eye,” he affirmed.
According to the dealer, his products are made out of blank diplomas issued by higher education institutions.
“This particular school admits 5,000 students per academic year, so they have to prepare 5,000 blank diplomas,” he claimed.
“However, there’s no way all of these students are going to graduate, as they will quit along the way, leaving some diplomas unfilled.”
The man added that he was able to source these blanks and then use the ‘latest technology’ to produce identical replicas that even university officials cannot detect.
“Had my products been iffy, I would have been busted by now,” he doubled down.
Once the customer is convinced, the dealer would collect several personal details, including birth date, sex, and the university of choice that customer wants their name written next to on the diploma.
The man refused to give any preview of the product before sending it off, saying some customers have dodged payment after realizing photos of their forged certificates are enough to apply for jobs.
“I will get the certificates delivered to you in three days,” he vowed.
“You can inspect it before paying.”
Another forgery service provider on Facebook also promised counterfeit diplomas of mint quality, with wet signatures and a fail-proof guarantee against all notary services in Vietnam, for the price of VND8 million ($349).
According to the seller, his products, made from school-issued blanks, can be used to apply for jobs or promotions since employers barely ever cross-check the legitimacy of certificates with universities.
However, they cannot be used in applying for master’s programs, for the information on them would not match any records in the academia system.
|A forged diploma, as advertised by a forgery service provider on social media in Vietnam|
According to Nguyen Trung Nhan, head of academic affairs at the Industrial University of Ho Chi Minh City, it is almost impossible for certificate blanks to be leaked from the school.
The school used to purchase certificate blanks from the Ministry of Education and Training, with the quantity strictly matching the number of confirmed graduates for the year.
Currently, the university is now manufacturing blanks in-house.
These blanks are stored in a room with three layers of lock, the keys to which are managed separately by three departments of the university.
After the list of graduates is confirmed, it requires the presence of all three departments to open the vault and obtain the correct number of blanks for certificate issuance.
Even if the blanks do get sneaked outside, universities can still easily expose forged certificates via cross-examination.
“We receive dozens of certificate cross-checking requests every week,” he said.
“There were times when we found 20 percent of scrutinized diplomas to be fake.
“The public can cross-check any certificate issued by us on the university’s official website.”
Bui Hoang Thang, head of academic affairs at the Ho Chi Minh City University of Technology, also thinks that a leak of certificate blanks is highly improbable.
“Many recruiters are reaching out to us to cross-check the academic degrees of their candidates,” Thang said.
“We weed out a lot of fakes from them.”
Diploma blanks are issued by Vietnam’s official money-printing agency and are equipped with anti-counterfeiting details that can only be detected by a few people in charge, said Pham Ngoc Minh, former head of academic affairs at the Banking University of Ho Chi Minh City.
With a strict manufacturing protocol, the smuggling of blanks is basically implausible.
“Modern printing technology can generate identical-looking copies of blanks, but I can spot a fake with just my eyes,” Minh claimed.
“On top of that, most headhunters are cross-checking candidates’ diplomas directly with the universities or through their websites, which leaves no windows for fake diplomas to pass.”
Vietnam university publisher apologizes Australian author, pulls journalism book over plagiarism
A publisher in Vietnam has apologized an Australian author and recalled a book on journalism and communication after he found two university lecturers who are the writers of an article in the book plagiarizing his journal paper.
The publishing house under the Vietnam National University-Ho Chi Minh City (VNU-HCM) had already pulled the book, published in Vietnamese in 2020, and registered for its republication, Tran Nam, chief of the communication and corporate relations bureau of the VNU-HCM’s University of Social Sciences and Humanities, told Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper on Friday.
Hoang Xuan Phuong and Vu Mong Lan, the writers of an article in the book, had been found plagiarizing a paper by Australian author Jim Macnamara in Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly, a peer-reviewed academic journal.
Phuong admitted to such plagiarism, saying Lan translated 85 percent of the paper into Vietnamese and included it in their book article without crediting Macnamara.
She claimed that Lan had asked her to symbolically co-author the article, which was meant to make it easier for the writing to be approved for publication, as Phuong was then head of the applied communication department, which is a part of the journalism and communication faculty under the top-tier University of Social Sciences and Humanities.
Phuong would have never made such straight lifting if she had written the article herself, she said.
“This is an oversight and a stain on my career,” Phuong admitted.
“I’m not denying that it has cost me my credebility, affecting the universities I’ve worked for.
“It is a painful lesson for me.”
Phuong is now vice-dean of the communication and public relations faculty under Van Lang University in Ho Chi Minh City, while Lan is a lecturer of the faculty.
Phuong quit her job at the journalism and communication faculty in October 2020.
On January 13, Macnamara emailed the journalism and communication faculty, which was responsible for compiling the book, to protest Phuong and Lan’s plagiarism.
The Australian author said that both had copied his paper, which was published in the Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly journal in 2016.
The Vietnamese publisher then apologized Macnamara and he accepted it, said Nam, the communication and corporate relations bureau chief.
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