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I never thought a journey to school could be so dangerous

World Vision
29 June 2015 by Jamie Conlon
I never thought a journey to school could be so dangerous

World Vision Australia Youth Ambassador Jamie visits a primary school in Vietnam where World Vision is working. Photo by Lucy Aulich, World Vision

At the age of 7 I decided I was old enough to walk to school. So one morning I got up extra early, wrote a note to let my parents know, and went off on my adventure. There was a main road that needed crossing sure, but at the time I didn’t really understand my parents fears when they came and got me. To be honest, the trek was not as fun as I thought it would be and I never needed to do it again, because all the way through to year 12 Mum drove my siblings and I to school.

I remembered this journey when I was visiting a school in Vietnam as a World Vision Youth Ambassador. It was awesome to see the value placed on education in Vietnam. Education is so key to development, so it is really important that kids get to school. But lifestyle differences, compared to many Australians like me, mean that most kids have to walk to school.

Children participate in a lesson on safety at a school in Vietnam. Photo by Lucy Aulich, World Vision

Children participate in a lesson on safety at a school in Vietnam. Photo by Lucy Aulich, World Vision

Whilst visiting the school in Tien Phuoc, we heard about the difficulties locals had previously had with their kids getting to school and the dangers they would face. Rainy season in Vietnam means that flash floods are a serious danger to school students while walking to and from school. We heard one terrifying story of a boy who fell in a river and was being swept away but luckily grabbed a branch and was helped out by someone later. He was very lucky to survive.

World Vision saw this issue of the dangers and difficulties for children getting to and from school and over the years have had different approaches to combat this issue. World Vision worked with local communities to build 90km of inter-village paths and 18 bridges, serving 2900 households. This has meant that getting to school is much easier for over 4000 students. Access to more secure roads that don’t get washed away by rainfall and other simple, stable infrastructure like this is something I had never considered before as being a barrier to education.

Add to this the safety measure of teaching students how to swim should a disaster happen, and giving out life jackets the students are much more prepared than before. Now giving out life jackets at first could seem silly – because who would want to take a life jacket to school every day? How inconvenient! But because of the specific problems faced in this area during the rainy season, the students at the school we visited had school bags where the straps were made out of flotation materials, so their school bag become their very own life jacket! It is quite an amazing invention that could potentially save many children’s lives! All these measures put in place by World Vision in partnership with the community have meant that parents are willing to send their kids to school at all times of the year, knowing that the kids are not in so much danger.

Youth Ambassador Kate shows off one of the backpacks that doubles as a floatation device in case of emergency. Photo by Lucy Aulich, World Vision

Youth Ambassador Kate shows off one of the backpacks that doubles as a floatation device in case of emergency. Photo by Lucy Aulich, World Vision

Now my parents issue with me walking to school was because of danger. And these dangers seem so minor now that I have been to Vietnam, but what I love is that in both Australia and Vietnam, education is being valued and children are getting to school! Tien Phuoc is rural and quite isolated area, so without education these children would have very few opportunities to earn money and build a better future for themselves.

Paths, bridges, swimming lessons and school bags that double as a life jacket, weren’t things I expected to learn about, but I see now that they are all helping the children of Tien Phuoc get to school and therefore giving them a brighter future.

I wonder if I had grown up facing these same hazards on my way to school, whether I would have been so keen to try and walk there on my own?

World Vision partners with communities to address their specific needs and to build a better world for children. You can help by sponsoring a child today.

Jamie Conlon Jamie Conlon

Jamie Conlon is 19 from Victoria. He is a World Vision Youth Ambassador. His ambition is to establish an ethically-sourced clothing company.

 

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