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Poor Vietnamese student pushes towards doctor dreams



Rather than letting his financial difficulties get in the way of his studies, Tran Doan Dinh Phap is pushing steadily towards his dream of becoming a doctor.

Despite his ongoing struggles, Phap, a freshman at Da Nang University of Medical Technology and Pharmacy located in its namesake central city, would go to any lengths to realize his dream of becoming a capable doctor.

The 18-year-old is the eldest and a beacon of hope for his family of three siblings from an underprivileged neighborhood in Phu Ninh District, Quang Nam Province, approximately 70 kilometers from Da Nang City.

Life took an unexpected turn for his farming family in 2012 as his father was struck dead by lightning while he was working on the field. 


The sudden passing of Phap’s father, the breadwinner, when he was only nine and the deteriorating health of his paternal grandmother left his family in a deep financial hole and emotionally devastated.

His mother pushed extremely hard to put food on the table and pay his grandmother’s medical bills for severe heart disease.

As his mother’s income could only cover daily needs, when he was not in class, Phap would help her with farm work.

The grieving woman and her young son toiling on the farm was a common sight, according to Phap’s neighbors.

There were days when the boy got laughed at by his classmates for his mud-smeared legs as he barely had time to get changed and take a shower.

After finishing ninth grade, Phap once thought of discontinuing his studies so he could find work to support his family.  

Alone in his struggle, he realized he was almost at a dead-end and did not know anyone to turn to for help.

Help came just when it was needed most as Phap found himself a beneficiary of a Da Nang-based charity center which offered to cover three years of tuition for underprivileged, well-performing students.

The teenager had his first taste of independence when he moved to Da Nang to attend senior high school, where he continued to excel in his studies.

His perseverance and determination and the support he received have helped him through the difficult times.

Instead of missing years of learning, the young man finally made it to medical college last September and is taking his first steps towards his dream and a brighter future.

Nhung, Phap’s mother, was exhilarated with the good news of her son’s college enrollment, but the joy was short-lived.

She was weighed down with worries that she would be too poor to support her son’s university education.

As she only has a few beds of vegetables to rely on for income, she would struggle to finance her son’s studies, with tuition fees approximating VND15 million (US$656) a year, as well as boarding.

“I tossed and turned the nights [following his enrollment]. I can hardly cover our daily needs,” Nhung shared. 

Refusing to let financial difficulties stand in the way of realizing his dream, Phap never ceased to work to make the impossible possible.

His first step was spending most of his days helping at a plumbing tool store owned by one of his relatives in Da Nang.

Phap also helps at a beverage stall nearby.

With his payment being free meals and boarding, the aspiring young man can save up and focus on his studies.

The relative is very kind to him, so he does not miss out on online classes, which have been in full swing in many localities in Vietnam since early May to curb the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Every night, inside a mezzanine, which triples as his relative’s warehouse, kitchen, and rest space, the student diligently does his studies by lamp light, which keeps his dream ablaze and his future as bright as possible.

Phap shared his childhood dream of becoming a doctor is something very important and personal.

With all the financial distress, physical pain and emotional loss his family has been through, the young man is determined to pursue his dream to the very end.

“I always keep in mind what my mom told me, I have to put in double or triple the efforts compared to others,” Phap shared.

“Where there is darkness, there is light. Only by excelling academically can I become who I aspire to be.”

29 benefit from Tuoi Tre newspaper’s flagship educational support program

On December 23, Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper, in coordination with Da Nang chapter of the Ho Chi Minh Communist Youth Union, gave away scholarships to 29 freshmen at Da Nang-based colleges, in the media organization’s ‘Tiep suc den truong’ (student support) program to help underprivileged students.

This year’s scholarship handout is part of Tuoi Tre’s ‘Vi ngay mai phat trien’ (For the growth of next generations) program.

The scholarships have a total value of more than VND300 million (US$13,125), with donations coming from Quang Nam-Da Nang Tiep suc den truong Club.     

Each scholarship is worth VND10 million ($437) and with one special scholarship valued at VND15 million ($656).

Other donors include Nestle Vietnam, which hands out gifts to the beneficiaries, and Vincam Co.’s Vincam Study Encouragement Foundation, which gifts laptops to particularly disadvantaged students who need devices for their studies. 

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Scholarships worth $440,000 awarded to 800 children who lost parents to COVID-19 in Vietnam



The Vietnamese Ministry of Education and Training, alongside two subsidiaries of Bitex Group, has announced it will award 800 scholarships worth a combined VND10 billion (US$440,238) over the next five years to local children who lost at least one parent to COVID-19.

The ministry, Binh Tay Import-Export JSC, and Anh Khue Watch JSC on Tuesday presented 400 scholarships to children who lost at least one of their parents since the beginning of the latest coronavirus outbreak in Ho Chi Minh City.  

The remaining 400 scholarships will be awarded to children in Dong Nai province, Binh Duong Province, and other localities across the country.

“The scholarship will help pay for the education and daily needs of those children who lost one or both parents so that they can have some stability in their lives,” Dr. Tran Van Lam, an official from the education ministry, said at the sponsorship event on Tuesday.

“We hope it will reduce the burden and pain of losing their loved ones.”

The children supported by the program will receive need-based aid until they turn 15 years old, according to Nguyen Xuan Dung, chairman of Bitex Group. 

A different level of sponsorship will be provided when they are between 15 and 18 years old.

Students who lost loved ones to COVID-19 receive scholarships at a ceremony in Ho Chi Minh City, January 11, 2022. Photo: Tuoi Tre

Students who lost loved ones to COVID-19 receive scholarships at a ceremony in Ho Chi Minh City, January 11, 2022. Photo: Tuoi Tre

At Tuesday’s event, several of the scholarship recipients took the stage to tell their stories.

“After the death of my father, I was so sad,” said Nguyen Le Ngoc Anh, a third grader, whose grandmother and father died of COVID-19.

Anh is now living with a sick mother and a 15-month-old sibling.

“My mother and the whole family were very worried about me, but now many people seem to understand what I’m going through, so they help me to feel better,” she said.

Duong Tien Thanh, a ninth grader whose mother died of COVID-19 about five months ago, thanked the sponsors for consoling him and motivating him to study hard for a better future. 

Ho Chi Minh City has documented more than 509,501 COVID-19 infections, including 20,018 deaths, out of the 1,659,113 patients recorded nationwide since the fourth virus wave hit Vietnam on April 27, 2021.

The latest coronavirus outbreak has taken away the parents of 1,517 students in the southern metropolis, according to the municipal Department of Education and Training’s statistics announced in September last year.

During the ongoing flare-up, more than 2,500 children across the country have lost parents, according to Suc Khoe & Doi Song (Health & Life), the mouthpiece of the Ministry of Health, which cited the Ministry of Labor, War Invalids, and Social Affairs last November.

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More localities welcome students back to school in Vietnam



Monday saw students return to brick-and-mortar classrooms in more localities across Vietnam after they had taken online lessons at home for a long time due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Those localities include Ba Ria – Vung Tau Province, Ho Chi Minh City, Dong Nai Province, An Giang Province, Hanoi, and Bac Giang Province, where the outbreak has stabilized.

In Ba Ria – Vung Tau, ninth and 12th graders were the first school returnees pursuant to a temporary schedule that has been planned until February 12, including the Lunar New Year holiday from January 24 to February 6.

In Ho Chi Minh City, education authorities in Cu Chi District allowed seventh and eighth graders to come back to school on Monday.

Ninth, tenth, 11th, and 12th graders in Cu Chi District and all students of the six aforementioned grades in other districts had resumed offline learning since January 4.

In Dong Nai Province, ninth and 12th graders in Bien Hoa City pioneered in-person learning on Monday while students in other grades are expected to follow suit on February 14.

In An Giang Province, schools only reopened to certain ninth and 12th graders in Chau Phu District under a pilot scheme.

In Hanoi, 12th graders in areas at low and medium risk of COVID-19 transmission in Hai Ba Trung and Tay Ho Districts, as well as ninth and 12th graders in those at the same levels of COVID-19 safety in Thanh Tri District restarted in-person lessons on Monday.

In Bac Giang City under the namesake province, kindergartens, elementary schools, middle schools, high schools, and vocational schools have resumed offline operations since Monday.

Schools at all levels across Vietnam have intermittently closed and reopened in light of the complicated developments of the COVID-19 fourth wave since early May 2021.

Vietnam has reported 1,914,393 patients, including 31 imported Omicron infections, since the COVID-19 pandemic first hit the country in early 2020.

Health workers have given over 161 million vaccine doses since vaccination was rolled out nationwide on March 8, 2021.

More than 78.2 million of the country’s 98 million people have received at least one dose while upwards of 71.1 million have been injected twice.

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English centers remain quiet notwithstanding permission to reopen in Ho Chi Minh City



Many English language centers in Ho Chi Minh City have remained closed even though local authorities already allowed the resumption of in-person learning earlier this week.

Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper has contacted some popular English centers such as VUS, ILA, and YOLA, whose consultants said they were unclear when in-person classes would resume even when Vietnam has switched to living safely with the coronavirus from a zero-COVID strategy, backed by a wide vaccine coverage rate.

Most courses are still organized online, but learners can register for offline classes in advance by taking placement tests virtually.

Now is not a good time

This is not a suitable time to welcome back learners as most students are busy with their first-term exams at school, a representative of SEAMEO Regional Training Center explained, adding that students will have a Lunar New Year break in about three weeks.

Do Thuy Hong, CEO of IvyPrep Education, said she is glad that foreign language centers are permitted to offer in-person classes, but IvyPrep Education is still concerned about the safety of students, staff, and the community given the COVID-19 pandemic.

The center is conducting a survey to assess the demand of students and their parents before making further decisions, Hong added.

It may apply a hybrid learning model, which includes 50 percent of online classes and 50 percent of in-person courses.

“We encourage fully-vaccinated middle school and high school students to take part in offline courses, while elementary school students should continue with remote learning,” Hong elaborated.

Most learners are not vaccinated

Aside from facilities running preparatory programs for English certificates such as the IELTS and TOEIC tests, most English centers in Ho Chi Minh City offer their courses to young learners, according to a manager of a center in Tan Binh District.

The manager said more than 65 percent of the learners at his facility are elementary school students, who have not received COVID-19 vaccination.

Meanwhile, learners and teachers must be inoculated with at least one dose to partake in offline classes at local centers, according to public health regulations.

“Unless authorities set out specific criteria for younger learners, we will have to wait until elementary school students are vaccinated to reopen,” the manager said.

A representative of APAX Leaders said that the center will maintain remote learning in the meantime as most of its learners are in seventh grade and lower.

An English center remains closed in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Trong Nhan / Tuoi Tre

An English center remains closed in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Trong Nhan / Tuoi Tre

Foreign teachers count the days

Raphael Galuz, a Frenchman who teaches English at a center in District 7, said he had had challenging months as strict social distancing measures resulted in his wage being halved.

His center had to lower tuition fees to discourage learners from quitting during the pandemic, and thus teachers’ payment also decreased, Galuz explained.

Chubby Vinaltino, a Singaporean teacher at an English center in Tan Phu District, said he is teaching only two classes, about eight hours, per week, which is four to five times lower than before the outbreak began on April 27 last year.

Vinaltino only received US$10 for an hour of online teaching, compared to the $15-20 per hour that he got from in-person instruction.

The teacher added that his income had shrunk by $70-80 per week, which made it difficult for him to pay for food, rent, and utilities.

“Three of my friends who are English teachers have had to move to cheaper places to live,” Vinaltino said.

Some even had to sell their own phone, he added.

Vinaltino said his only wish is that English centers welcome back learners as soon as possible, which will help foreign teachers solve their financial problems.

Ho Chi Minh City has recorded over 507,000 local COVID-19 infections since the fourth virus wave hit the country on April 27, 2021.

Due to the serious outbreak, municipal authorities required all students to stay home and switch to remote learning on May 10, which resulted in the suspension of in-person classes at all educational facilities, including English language centers.

After the pandemic was put under control, ninth and twelfth graders were allowed to resume in-person learning from mid-December, while seventh, eighth, tenth, and eleventh graders could return to school on January 4.

Centers teaching foreign languages and computing were permitted to resume offline classes from January 4, but teachers and learners must be at least partially vaccinated against COVID-19 or have recovered from the disease.

The city began providing vaccination to children aged 12 to 17 in late October.

As of December 9, 96.6 percent of residents in this age range had received one dose, while 85.5 percent had been jabbed twice.

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