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In late 1998, the seaside Cần Giờ district, some 30 kilometres from HCM City, suffered a catastrophic crop failure due to a combination of severe draught, wide-spread oil spill and incursion of salt water into cultivated areas. A large number of senior high school students had to give up schooling to seek work to support their families and help them avoid starvation

Scholarship Project
The project aimed to give financial assistance to students so that they could continue with their schooling. The students who were selected were those with good academic records, of good character and with family in dire economic circumstances.

Dr Nguyen Thien Tong, representative of the Foundation  spoke to students and parents

Dr Nguyễn Thiện Tống, representative of the Foundation spoke to students and parents

Students waiting for scholarships

Students waiting for scholarships

A total of 50 full scholarships (worth VND500,000 each) and 50 half scholarships (worth VND350,000 each) were given. They were disbursed to two high schools in Cần Giờ district: Bình Khánh High School (30 full and 32 half scholarships) and Cần Thạnh High School (20 full and 18 half scholarships)

Receiving the scholarships

Students receiving the scholarships

Dr Tong with students

Dr Tống talked with the students

Contributions
The project was fully funded by the Vietnam Foundation. Tuổi Trẻ newspaper in HCMC helped with the general management of the project, collecting applications, selection of candidates, etc.
Closing date for scholarship applications was on 28 November 1998. Dispersion of the scholarships was on 17 December 1998.

The school is in An Điền hamlet, An Thuận village, Thạnh Phú district, Bến Tre province.
Thạnh Phú is the poorest district of Bến Tre, some 80 kilometres south-west of HCM City. The population makes their living by rice cultivation. Because the district is near the sea, rice fields are frequently flooded with salt water. Therefore, rice yield is very low and total production is not enough to feed the local population.

Existing school

The existing school had 4 teachers and 150 primary school children. It was a dilapidated makeshift of bamboo poles and lattices, palm leaves, cardboard and rusty iron sheets. Walls and roofs were all tattered and full with gaps. They could not provide even basic protection for children from winds and rains. Frequent gusts of ocean wind threw up dust and sand through the classrooms, sending the children scurrying for cover. On rainy days, children had to huddle together in corners to avoid the wet and wait for the rain to stop to resume lessons. If it rained too long the school had to be closed and children had to go back on Sundays for make-up lessons.

Classroom in the old building

Classroom in the old building

Playing time

School children at play time in front of their classrooms

The new school

Vietnam Foundation helped build a new building for the school. The new building is of brick and tile construction. It consists of 4 classrooms, a staff room and a toilet. A water well and new fences are also added to the school. Each classroom is 6m x 8m and has a 2m-wide veranda.

The Old and the New

The old building in the foreground and the new building in the background

Contributions

The total cost of the project was VND190 Million (about AUD22,000). Apart from the contribution of AUD10,000 from the Vietnam Foundation, other contributions came from Vietnamese individuals and organisations in the US and in Vietnam. The local population contributed their labour for the building of the school.

Construction was started on 1 April 1998. The school was handled over to the local people on 19 July 1998.

Waiting to enter the new classes

Children waiting to enter the new classrooms

Bình Hòa Nam village is home of about 6500 people. It is about 7 km from Đức Huệ town centre, Long An province, which is located 75 km from HCM City. To reach the village from HCMC, travellers have to go by car for about 2 hrs 30 minutes (through Đức Huệ) and then about 25 minutes by small boats. The local people make their living mainly by rice growing. Production is very low because many parts of the village are affected by acid sulphate (phèn). The living standard of the population is therefore very poor.

Bình Hòa Nam Health Centre

The health centre consists of 4 rooms and has 4 staff. It is the only centre available which provides basic health care for the local population, including emergency medical treatment and birth delivery. The most modern piece of equipment in the centre is a sphygmomanometer (to measure blood pressure).

Solar Lighting System

The village is not connected to the national electric grid. Therefore, there is no electric supply at the Centre. Vietnam Foundation installed for the Centre a solar electric system. The system is used for lighting of the examination room, birth delivery room, patients’ room, staff office and for powering a black & white TV. It is completed with 75Wp solar panel manufactured by BP Solar (Australia), charger/regulator, 100Ah accumulator, batteries and light fittings.

The solar panel

The solar panel provided by Vietnam Foundation

The control system

The control system

Contributions
The project was completed in December 1997. Contributors of the project included:

  • BP Solar (Australia) for solar panels
  • Vietnam Airlines for transportation
  • Scitec Co. (HCM City) for customs clearance and storage
  • SolarLab (HCM City) for installation and technical assistance.
Commemorative plaque

Commemorative plaque

Cù lao (island) Lá is in Mỹ Hòa village, Ba Tri district, Bến Tre province. The island is about 20 km from Bến Tre. To get there from HCM City, travellers have to go by car through Ba Tri and then by small boats. The local population consists of about 700 families, with 4600 people.

Previously, the local people grew coconuts and engaged in light industries based on coconut production. However, due to salt water incursion, since the early 90s, they switched to sugar cane growing. Because the living condition is very hash, it is very difficult to attract health workers and teachers to stay there to provide services for the local population.

Cù lao Lá Health Centre

The Cù lao Lá Health Centre consists of 4 rooms including an examination room, birth delivery room, the patients’ room and the administrative office. As the island is not connected to the national electric grid, there is no electric supply at the Centre.
Vietnam Foundation provided the Centre with a solar electric system.

Solar panel installation

The solar panel provided by Vietnam Foundation

Solar Electric Sytem

The system is used for lighting of the examination room, birth delivery room, patients’ room, staff office and for power for a black & white TV. It is completed with 75Wp solar panel manufactured by BP Solar (Australia), charger/regulator, 100Ah accumulator, batteries and light fittings.

The control system

Contributions

The project was completed in December 1997. Contributors to the project included :

  • BP Solar (Australia) for solar panels
  • Vietnam Airlines for transportation
  • Scitec Co. (HCM City) for customs clearance and storage
  • SolarLab (HCM City) for installation and technical assistance
Commemorative plaque

Commemorative plaque

Cù lao (island) Lá is in Mỹ Hòa village, Ba Tri district, Bến Tre province. The island is about 20 km from Bến Tre. To get there from HCM City, travellers have to go by car through Ba Tri and then by small boat. The local population consists of about 700 families, with 4600 people.

The village can only be reached by small boats

The village can only be reached by small boats

Previously, the local people grew coconuts and engaged in light industries based on coconut production. However, due to salt water intrusion, since the early 90s, they switched to sugar cane growing. Because the living condition is very hash, it is very difficult to attract health workers and teachers to stay there to provide services for the local population.

Cù lao Lá Primary School

The Cù lao Lá Primary School has 4 class rooms (for year 1 to year 4) and 4 residential teachers. Since the island is not connected to the national electric grid, there is no electric supply at the school. Vietnam Foundation provided the school with a solar electric system.

Solar panel installation

Installation of the solar panel

Solar Electric System

The system is used for lighting of the class rooms, staff office and power for TV reception. It is completed with 50Wp solar panel manufactured by BP Solar (Australia), charger/regulator, 100Ah accumulator, batteries and light fittings.

The control system and  a black & white TV

The control system and a black & white TV

Contributors

The project was completed in December 1997. Contributors of the project included:

  • BP Solar (Australia) for solar panels
  • Vietnam Airlines for transportation
  • Scitec Co. (HCM City) for customs clearance and storage
  • SolarLab (HCM City) for installation and technical assistance
Marking students' works

Teacher can now mark students’ works under electric light

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