Journalist letter to education minister stirs up criticism over bureaucracy
  • | | February 28, 2013 02:56 PM
A letter from a journalist to Minister of Education and Training asking about slow meal support for kindergarten children in disadvantaged areas has caused public criticism over red tape.


Kindergarten children in Pha Lay Village in the mountainous north western province of Dien Bien have meals funded by donors 

According to the letter from journalist Tran Dang Tuan, the prime minister issued Decision 60/2011/QĐ-Ttg on October 26, 2011 on subsidising kindergarten children aged between three and four in remote, mountainous and disadvantaged areas VND120,000 (USD5.73) per month each for their lunches at school.

As the decision took effect from December 15, 2011, the government has set aside funding for the programme but there has still yet to issue a circular to guide its implementation. This means that money has yet to have been provided to the needy who continue to struggle.

“As far as I know, several locations have received funding allocations for the programme. Despite the lack of the circular, some localities have provided the money to children for a few months in order to support the needy. Several others dare not,” Tuan said in his letter.

According to him, in the northern province of Lao Cai, local authorities in Muong Khuong District have provided the funding to schools but Bat Xat Distict has yet to follow.

Tuan said, “In a recent statement, Deputy Minister of Education and Training Tran Quang Quy admitted that slow implementation of meal support policies for poor students broke the government’s target on the issues for the 2011-2012 period. I’m afraid that the situation will continue to this year as this school year will end in the next three months. If targeted children are reimbursed then, how will it help improve their health in the past period?”

He wondered why it took so long for the ministry to issue a circular to guide the implementation while many underprivileged children are in desperate need of support.

“I know the ministry’s leaders are busy dealing with various issues. However, it’s unacceptable that a government policy has been delayed for over a year just simply due to the lack of a guiding document,” he emphasised.

He said he was compelled to raise the issue with Minister of Education and Training Pham Vu Luan this time as he had discussed it several times already in some newspapers.

In order to support the children that would be covered by the policy, he and his friends initiated a programme “Com co thit” or “Meals with meat” to help raise funds to subsidise meals for disadvantaged children in some mountainous localities.

“Many of the donors are elderly women who have a pension of only VND2 million (USD95.64) per month, some are new postgraduates with modest incomes. Many jobless people promised to donate some amount of money when they find employment,” he added.

Public criticism

Many people have seriously criticised the ministry and the country’s bureaucratic procedures.

Members of the public have said that only those who have directly travelled to mountainous areas could have deep understanding how difficult the life there is. Such sluggish policy implementation added more difficulties to the lives of needy children.

They proposed that the minister pay more attention to issuing the required circular so as to speed up the implementation of the subsidy policy.

Several others said that it was bad to promise to help disadvantaged children and then only slowly realise it. It would reflect badly on the minister’s prestige.

Some commented that this is a common problem in Vietnam. They tried to clarify the reasons for the issues, including bureaucratic procedures, lack of leadership responsibility, and slow responses to public concerns.

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