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Evaluation report

VTN 1999/006: Prospects for Viet Nam's Rural Children: A Study on Early Childhood Care (The Voices of Major Stakeholders)



Author: van Oudenhoven, N. Nhom Chan Troi Moi (New Horizons Group)

Executive summary

Background

Children living in the poor, rural, remote, mountainous and isolated areas of Viet Nam fare poorly on all vital statistics. Life is tough on them, and girls appear particularly vulnerable. Children and children's issues have ceased to be the concern of a restricted number of groups alone. CRC has been essential in raising awareness that children's issues matter to everyone and that children's own views must be taken into account. The argument is quickly growing stronger that it is to the advantage of everybody that children do well. In other words, that everybody 'holds a stake' in children's development. There are obvious stakeholders, such as parents and families; others are less evident and may not yet be aware of their role. They need to be activated. All of them should, however, be heard and engaged, as they are indispensable in shaping and supporting interventions for children. This study takes the stakeholders seriously and actively seeks their involvement and sets out to learn from them. Once it is realised that the wellbeing of children affects all, everyone becomes a bona fide stakeholder.

Purpose / Objective

This study reports on the efforts made in improving conditions and services for rural children from a range of stakeholders. Its main goal is to contribute to policy making and programming for these children.

The leading objective of the study is to find new information pertinent to policy and programme formulation for young rural children. It is argued that a great deal of wisdom, experience and expertise lies within the various groups of stakeholders and that this has not been sufficiently explored or validated. A related objective is to test and adjust the prevailing views that exist within the Ministry of Education and Training and UNICEF. The study is, therefore, an effort to generate fresh ideas. It is less a survey of prevailing conditions of rural children, or an investigation into the effectiveness of current policies or programmes.

Methodology

In this study, the following groups were identified as major stakeholders: children, parents, communities, teachers, health workers and care givers, the Ministry of Education and Training (MOET), Ministry of Health (MOH), Viet Nam Women's Union (VWU), Committee for the Protection and Care of Children (CPCC), Committee for Ethnic Minorities and Mountainous Areas, religious leaders, private sector, mass media and the international development community. Teams consisting of the staff of MOET, MOH, UNICEF, SCF/US, CPCC and VWU visited ten very poor communities in five districts in five provinces, observed young children and had interviews with the stakeholders there. These interviews were followed up by sessions with the other stakeholders in Hanoi.

Key Findings and Conclusions

Clearly, the basic needs of disadvantaged children are barely met, or not at all. However, there is also room for optimism. Their parents and grandparents make the best out of their meagre means and many manage to support their children's overall development. Houses are relatively clean. Mothers breastfeed their children when possible. Weighting and vaccination schemes are commonly followed. In the absence of a library, some children in one commune in Ha Tihn Province had devised a scheme to borrow books from each other for a small fee. Teenagers are convinced that things are much better than in their times and continue to improve.

Children want to learn; they all want to go to kindergarten and go to school. Many older children have aspirations that go beyond the professional levels of their parents. They would like to get married at a mature age; girls should be at least 22 years old and boys a bit older. The ideal family consists of one or two children, with only a slight preference for boys. Babies should be breastfed, immunized and weighed. Children should go to kindergarten and then on to primary and secondary school. Education is a way to a better life. Both boys and girls should play soccer. Although girls are seen as intelligent as boys, both sexes think that boys should have priority in schooling.

Among the familiar images that accompany poverty, one particularly disturbing observation needs further exploration. The children hardly play. Most of the time, when they are not at work or at school, the children hang around or move about without much sense of direction or purpose. Games and toys are a rare sight in many villages.

Many caregivers, health workers and teachers function under conditions of hardship and with personal sacrifice; it is almost a miracle that they are still so effective. Primary school enrolment is almost universal and health services have made great strides as well. There is now 97% EPI and 100% Vitamin A coverage and an almost complete IDD elimination. The figures for kindergarten education show a steady increase. All community-based workers wish to be more educated and are willing to invest time and energy into it. Their training needs are wide and profound and range from being updated on content matters to acquiring management and social skills. As many workers belong to the majority Kinh group, the need for learning minority languages and understanding minority cultures appears particularly pressing.

Recommendations

There is a consensus that families living in the poorest communes of the country need help in their efforts to raise their children. Access to ECC for all children, free medical services, kindergarten education available to all five year olds, and primary school education are seen as the bare minimum. There is also a general feeling that the professional staff responsible for delivering these services, whether working in administrative capacities at provincial, district or commune level, or as 'front-line' workers, should receive a wide range of support including employment benefits, training and access to social networks.

There is the risk that kindergarten and DCC [child care for age 0 - 3 years] are seen as the only effective ECC services and that children's enrolment is synonymous to child development. The moment has come to enlarge the current strategies from attaining largely quantitative goals to including qualitative achievements. It is not enough that children go to school; they should also learn.



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Report information

Date:
1999

Region:
EAPRO

Country:
Vietnam

Type:
Study

Theme:
ECD - Policy

Partners:

PIDB:

Follow Up:

Language:
English

Sequence Number:
1999/006

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