Saturday, May 23, 2009

A story about Vietnamese school children

Oxfam activist Izzy Bensaad had a chance to write an opinion piece for the U.K. Newspaper the Edinburgh Evening News. In his commentary, Bensaad appeals to the British government for more funding for international aid and development. As an example on how international aid can help, Bensaad relates this story told to him from an Oxfam worker in Vietnam.

I had a timely reminder of that this week, just before yesterday's Department for International Development's white paper consultation. I met Trang, a Vietnamese programme officer working with Oxfam in his country.

Trang told me about the school in the area where he works and what children have to do to get any sort of education.

For a child to go to school they must set off on their journey in the early morning to begin a minimum trek of two hours.

There are no cafeterias so no-one can complain about sloppy school dinners; children take a bag of rice to sustain them during the long day of staring at the poorly qualified teacher dictating words at the packed rows of desks, in a dialect which is foreign to them.

Trang told me of the poverty that disables his community every day.

What struck me most was the perpetual cycle of need caused by the lack of education: 72 million children in developing countries have no education, more than two in every three of them girls.

These children may never learn the skills that represent their best chance of escaping poverty.

We have the power to change this. With Oxfam's support the school Trang told me about has changed. It has a kitchen, local assistant teachers that can help overcome language barriers, a better learning environment and they are working with the DFID to improve the methodology of teaching practice.

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