Vietnam Time

6/27/2018 4:30:49 PM

Ha Giang: Keeping girls in school

(VNF) - On June 15th, in Hoang Su Phi, Ha Giang province, Plan International Vietnam held a closing cremony for “Keep girls in school” project.

At the meeting. (Photo: Plan)

In Ha Giang province of Vietnam, a province that runs along the border of China and is home to many indigenous and ethnic minority groups, Plan International is working to remove the barriers that prevent adolescent girls from accessing a lower secondary education.

Unlike other parts of the country, school attendance for secondary school is low, particularly for adolescent girls from minority groups. The high drop-out rate is largely influenced by cultural beliefs and traditions, where girls, at the age of 15 and 16, are expected to marry and support the family by either working on farms or supporting the household with domestic chores.

Four years ago, Plan started a Girls Fund programme to improve life for girls in Ha Giang. Plan’s project aims to tackle the physical, social, and cultural barriers that prevent girls from accessing school. In some cases, even if girls start secondary school, many will eventually drop out: they will be married off and expected to stay at home and help with domestic duties.

Within the 16 primary and secondary schools, the project implemented a number of activities, including the construction of girl-friendly latrines and female dormitories; establishing girls’ clubs; raising awareness about positive parenting and gender equality; and developing income-generating activities that would enable families to send their daughters to school.

The majority of the families in Ha Giang rely on agriculture as an income, earning USD 20 a month planting crops. With approximately 70 per cent of Ha Giang living on less than USD 1 a day, there is often little savings available to support children in their schooling. Children are also seen as valuable labor support for their families.

In addition to financial conditions and cultural norms that undervalue a girls’ right to an education, mobility and access have also prevented many students from attending school.

There are fewer secondary schools in the mountainous, remote areas, requiring girls to travel up to four to five kilometers each way. The perilous monsoons and harsh winters make it even more difficult for students to travel. Without an adequate number of school dormitories to host students, many children, a large percentage of whom were girls, eventually drop out.

In several communes, up to 43 per cent of girls drop out of secondary school.

Plan completed the construction of several new school dormitories in the area. With the new dorms, one school saw an increase in school attendance from 30 girls to 52 girls. The dormitories enable girls to stay in school and reduce their daily commute. Those extra hours can now be spent on homework and socialising with friends.

New school dormitories and sanitary toilets for children.

Through continued campaigns and awareness raising, the community has started to understand the value of secondary schooling, particularly for girls. Recently, community members supported the construction of water tanks at school and have provided materials for the dormitories. They have also funded parenting groups and orchestrated their own events and campaigns.

Plus they trained local village health workers on ways to boost mother-and-child health, improved nutrition and hygiene, and raised awareness of the risks of early marriage so fewer girls get married too young.

In 4 years, the project reached more than 2.100 girls between 10-15 years old and 420 teachers in 8 villages of Hoang Su Phi and Xin Man. With support from Plan, they have new classrooms with library and sanitary toilets as well as join in communication sessions on girls’ rights, especially their right to education.

A member of Girls Club shared, “In the past, I was an average and shy student. However, after joining this club, my academic performance is getting better and I am more confident speaking in front of people. I was almost engaged when I was in grade 5, however, I had courage to ask my parents to return the engagement gift. Thank to Plan International for supporting us so we can share and learn from each other.”

Chau Pham  
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