Stories: Children, Communities, Futures

For children who live in remote areas like the Ngan Son District of Vietnam, teaching and learning facilities are often poor, and all too often there is no school within easy reach.

I’ve observed first hand the challenges children in remote areas face to reach school, so let’s discuss what we’ve seen in rural Vietnam, and how we can improve children’s access to education.


1. Children walk long and dangerous journeys to school


On my last visit to Vietnam, I visited a very remote area where children as young as five have to walk up to five kilometres every day to reach their closest school.

The idea of a young child having to walk so far alone is horrifying – there’s no infrastructure on the roads, and there’s a real danger of them having an accident on the way.

Right now, ChildFund is working in seven communities in the Ngan Son District, helping build schools for children who have difficulty accessing education.


2. Rural schools need better infrastructure


Schools in rural areas are often operating out of a single classroom, or in unsafe buildings. Others don’t have perimeter fences, which means animals and intruders can easily access the grounds, or children can walk out onto the road.

ChildFund is working with local communities to fund the development of child-friendly infrastructure in schools. This includes building safer classrooms, that are structurally sound, and located within child-safe boundaries.

We’re also making sure children have access to safe drinking water on school grounds, as well as functioning toilets and sinks to wash their hands.

ChildFund and Microsoft are teaming up to develop applications that will protect vulnerable children from online threats in Vietnam.

Microsoft Vietnam has agreed to a VND 5.4 billion (AU$314,774) sponsorship to help ChildFund Vietnam and the Department of Child Affairs develop an application that will make it easy to report and track cases of child abuse in remote villages.

The sponsorship will also include the development of applications that can teach children and their parents about being safe online, which will form part of ChildFund’s Swipe Safe project.

Swipe Safe is targeting 12,000 teenagers in 30 Vietnamese high schools, as well as their parents and teachers, to help them make the most of the online world.

ChildFund also partners with local businesses, encouraging internet cafes and online gaming shops to sign on to child safety codes of conduct.

ChildFund Vietnam Country Director Nguyen Thi Bich Lien said the rapid rise of internet use in Vietnam meant digital safety had a growing role in ChildFund’s work.

“One of ChildFund’s priorities in the coming years is to support Government and grassroots level authorities in building and strengthening an effective child protection service system,” she said.

“We believe that with the support from Microsoft, ChildFund Vietnam will be able to implement data management and awareness-raising through education applications which are highly practical and successfully applied in the context of Vietnam.”

As well as educating children and their parents, the partnership will also allow ChildFund to develop a web-based reporting system for cases of abuse.

Microsoft Vietnam General Director Pham The Truong said the project would highlight how the internet can be used to make communities safer and better connected.

“We are living in a fast moving, connected world, filled with new complex issues every day,” he said.

“This project is one of the initiatives Microsoft is working with NGOs to solve social challenges, improve the human condition and drive new growth equally with technology.

“We believe in good outcomes from this project so our children can live in a healthier environment.”

Vietnam has one of the highest rates of internet use in Asia. Around 67% of the population – 64 million people – are online, and internet use is common even in remote villages with limited infrastructure.

Under the arrangement, Microsoft will provide funding and recommend a developer, while ChildFund and the Department of Child Affairs will use their child protection expertise to ensure the applications meet the needs of the community.

The projects will be implemented in two communities where ChildFund works over the next 24-months and rolled out nationwide.