With her daughters’ school fees amounting to one-third of her family’s income, providing an education for her family comes at a huge cost for 25-year-old Lu Thi Sua. But, all Sua wants is a better life for her children. To support women like Sua, Aide et Action is implementing a project on early childhood care and education in rural villages to increase women’s participation in the community, build parenting skills and increase access to quality education for disadvantaged children.
Like many of the inhabitants of Vietnam’s remote and rural Lai Chau province, Sua and her family rely on agriculture to make a living. Sua lives with her parents-in-law in the small, scenic village of San Phang Cao tucked high up in the mountainous province bordering China. Farmwork earns Sua and her four children very little to live on so her husband also tries to find work as a construction worker to supplement their income. The combined monthly income for this family of eight amounts to approximately $50 per month and means Sua sometimes has to turn to her own mother for help to pay her children’s school fees.
Nutrition and the impact of the coronoavirus
Recently, the emergency measures the Vietnamese government has imposed to protect its citizens from the novel coronavirus is having an impact on families like Sua’s. “At present, all children in the village are staying home due to the virus – this impacts my family life as well other people in our village”, explains Sua. “We’re staying inside and limiting meeting each other because of the risk of infection. It means my husband cannot go out to work and our income is even less than before. We’re unable to afford meat at the moment so I’m giving my children eggs and peanuts as an alternative”.
Aide et Action has been working in Lai Chau province for four years and last year, we ran a series of monthly parenting workshops where we introduced parents to different topics such as nutrition, hygiene, childhood care, etc. to support them in providing the best care possible for their families. “The parents meetings were very helpful” says Sua. “For me, the most valuable thing I learned was about child nutrition and I have applied this new knowledge in the everyday care of my children.”
One of the main objectives of Aide et Action’s work in Lai Chau province has been to promote quality and inclusive early childhood care and education in rural areas where facilities and quality teaching are lacking. We’ve done this through teacher training and the development of child-friend methodologies to be adapted in pre- and primary schools.
“My children love going to school and they cry if I don’t take them”, says Sua. “Currently, the government has closed all schools because of the coronavirus and the children have to stay at home”. My oldest daughter is still doing homework at home which has been assigned by teachers in the village and my husband and I are teaching her math and spelling when we can.” With children now almost six weeks behind schedule due to school closures, Aide et Action is supporting school management with weekly check-ins to support them in providing guidance to children and families to promote learning at home.
Education is key
Primary schools are due to open again on 19 March 2020 and Sua is looking forward to having her children resume their education. Surviving on a meager income of approximately $45 per month (for a family of eight), Sua hopes that her children will be able to have a more economically comfortable life in the future and the key to that, she contests, is education. “I think education is so important because it will give my children knowledge hopefully a career in the future. Without going to school, their life will be hard because farmers here do not have much money”.
Sua has noticed a difference in her village since Aide et Action’s project commenced, noting that women are becoming much more involved in community activities. “In the past, in village meetings, men mostly attended and if women attended, they didn’t speak. Now, more women are attending and are expressing their ideas” says Sua. Sua hopes to see the project continue in her village and even has a wish list of her own. “I would love to see libraries in schools here, a secondary school closer to the village and more projects that support livelihoods”, she says.
Above all, however, Sua’s dream to see her children go to university, a chance she never had herself. “I just want them to have a better life than me”, she explains. Aide et Action is proud to support parents like Sua who have contributed significantly to the success of our project by attending parent meetings and applying knowledge at home to promote and encourage education where it’s needed most.