Updated: October 21, 2021 10:13 AM GMT
St. Paul de Chartres Sister Elizabeth Pham Thi Bich offers scholarships to a family in Hue. (Photo: UCA News)
Phan Ngoc Thieu, a sixth grader, got up at 3am, worked at a bakery and shipped bread to restaurants until noon every day during last summer.
Thieu, whose father died of tuberculosis, earned 1.5 million dong (US$66) per month to help support her family and save for her school fees. She lives with her grandparents in the ancient city of Hue in Thua Thien Hue province.
Her mother, who works as a hairdresser in Vietnam’s Covid-19 epicenter Ho Chi Minh City, could not send money to her for months as she became jobless and got infected with the contagion.
“A nun met me and asked about my situation while I was delivering bread at a market,” the 12-year-old girl with an angelic face said. She was given 2 million dong ($88) to buy school uniforms, school bags, books and other items for the new school year.
Schools were reopened on Sept. 22 after being closed due to the coronavirus outbreak. There is no official number of students who have dropped out as their families face problems caused by the pandemic.
A female teacher from Dien An Primary School in Phong Dien district said 12 out of 36 students in her class had dropped out of school. Of the school's 700 students in 18 classes, 182 have left because of economic problems.
We want to create good opportunities for those students to study further as a way to encourage their families to overcome these hard times
“I am deeply grateful to the nun for coming to my aid as I could not go to school this year without her help,” Buddhist student Thieu said.
St. Paul de Chartres Sister Elizabeth Tran Thi Hang, who is in charge of scholarships for students in Hue, said the nuns intend to offer Thieu a scholarship until she enters college as her family is in dire circumstances.
Sister Hang, 47, said that this year they had provided scholarships for some 200 students from poor families who are badly affected by the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. They also called on benefactors to make donations to support students in need to pursue their studies in the long term as their families cannot afford to send them to school due to the devastating effects of the pandemic.
She said the nuns started to offer scholarships to poor students in 1999 after heavy floods caused mass destruction in the area. They have raised funds from their alumni abroad and former scholarship recipients, supporting some 10,000 students so far.
“We want to create good opportunities for those students to study further as a way to encourage their families to overcome these hard times,” she said.
Le Thi Phung from An Cuu ward has been jobless since late August after the restaurant where she worked was closed due to the Covid-19 outbreak. Her husband, a bricklayer in Binh Duong province, also lost his job and could not afford to return home.
“Our daughter was extremely disappointed at the fact that we have no money to cover her school fees this year,” the 47-year-old Buddhist said, adding that she asked Catholics from Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish to assist her.
“I am deeply grateful to them for visiting and providing my daughter 1 million dong,” she said. Her daughter Phan Thi Ngoc Tram is a 10th grader and has just recovered from petechial fever.
The parish offers scholarships to 70 students from families stricken by the coronavirus.
Mattheus Nguyen Quoc Chuong, head of Me Oi Association that awards scholarships to poor students in Hue, said the association is providing financial support for 100 students this year. Each is given 100 euros on average.
Ho Chi Minh City alone has recorded more than 1,500 children orphaned by the contagion
Father Paul Nguyen Ngoc Vinh, parish priest of Linh Thuy, said the parish plans to give scholarships to 200 students, 60 percent of them followers of other faiths.
He said students are from local fishing families who lost their jobs due to the Covid-19 outbreak.
“We call on benefactors to supply rice, instant noodles, cooking oil and fish sauce to them,” he said.
This year he has received fewer donations from benefactors as they are also badly affected by the coronavirus. The priest, who was assigned to the parish in 2019, said last year students were given 300,000 dong each month, bikes and school bags.
Vietnam has recorded 870,255 infections and 21,344 deaths since the Covid-19 outbreak hit it in early 2020. The pandemic has suspended economic and social activities, leaving tens of millions of people unemployed and in difficult situations.
Ho Chi Minh City alone has recorded more than 1,500 children orphaned by the contagion.
Last month the government launched a national program to provide free computers and internet services for 2,215,863 students from poor families.
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