Last week we published the first instalment in our series looking at the story of the Loc Hung Vegetable Garden in Vietnam, in which we interviewed Cao Ha Truc about his experiences. For the second instalment we spoke to a child from the community who told us about his experiences of harassment at his school.
How old are you?
I am 13 years old.
Could you tell us what happened at your school, and how it made you feel?
During the routine salute to the [national] flag in the schoolyard, the school officials took me to the front and handed me a printed document and made me read from it. [It said] that the Loc Hung Vegetable Garden is public land and is to be used to build a public school. They asked me if I would like to go to the new nicer school, and said that if I knew anyone who objected to the building of the school on the public land then I needed to report these people to the authorities. [Essentially] they asked me to report on my own parents.
I was caught by surprise and asked them why I was being asked about the affairs of adults and the building plans. At the same time, the principal and the school officials all knew I lived [in Loc Hung], where my family was, and they knew about my father, so it wasn’t really a surprise that I was targeted.
I handed back the paper to the official and said I didn’t want to read it. I turned round and left: even though I was scared, I didn’t comply.
What happened after that and how are things at your school now?
My form teacher told me that I just needed to focus on studying so that I wouldn’t get punished and that next year I would be transferred to the secondary school and things will be better. Thank God I am in a different school now and I don’t have to face those officials anymore because I’m in secondary school now.
My father also filed a complaint against the school at the Bureau of Education in Ho Chi Minh City and even at the Department of Education. The inspector of the Bureau of Education noted the incident. Even though they didn’t issue an official response, my father thinks that it helped and the incident ended there and did not escalate further.
Although in this child’s case things have improved, many of the children affected by the expropriation of the Loc Hung Vegetable Garden remain in a difficult situation. Next week we will hear from a local teacher who reflects on the broader situation for children from the garden.