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Learning environment unsafe
By Son Nguyen
Thursday,  Dec 20, 2018,19:59 (GMT+7)

Learning environment unsafe

By Son Nguyen

Concerns about the learning environment have intensified given innumerable misdeeds by teachers lately, from babysitters brutally beating toddlers to teachers insulting students, or maltreating students causing severe bodily harm, and most recently a headmaster sexually abusing some of his students. Although such heart-ripping events do not depict the complete picture of the country’s education, the public trust has to some extent been shattered, and thus tough measures rather than lip service must be taken immediately to restore people’s confidence in schools as safe places for their kids.

Much has been discussed in local media about counter-educational behaviors by teachers at schools, but the sexual abuse by the principal of a boarding school in the northern province of Phu Tho that was revealed last week is so shocking that it sends the entire society to its feet. In this scandal, apart from harsh criticisms directed at the culprit, numerous questions are posed to the Ministry of Education and Training for its role in ensuring a healthy learning environment. The answer, as usual, is far from unsatisfactory.

The scandal was unveiled when VTV24, a news channel of the national television station VTV, aired a newscast last Thursday, reporting how several students at Thanh Son District Boarding School had been sexually abused by the school’s headmaster, for years. The revelation prompted an immediate investigation, and two days later, police of Phu Tho Province’s Thanh Son District prosecuted and arrested Dinh Bang My for allegedly abusing his male students.

Some students, mostly in the ninth grade and even those who have graduated from the school, said on VTV that they had been called into the headmaster’s private room during school time, and were told to perform sexual acts with him there, according to Phap Luat Online. In certain cases, the headmaster ordered other teachers to send students to his room, and after such dirty deeds, the headmaster would give the student some money and ordered him to keep the secret to himself.

Pham The Anh, deputy director of Thanh Son District Police, says on the news site Nguoi Dua Tin that the alleged sexual abuse by the headmaster to tens of students was true, and investigators are probing the extent and severity of the crime.

The widespread, public wrath towards the school’s principal is understandable, due to the psychological damages caused to the young people.

Anh Tuan, a reporter at VTV24 who produced the report after a long investigation, says in Tuoi Tre that the criminal act by the headmaster is beyond people’s imagination, and “the underage students were too terrified to speak out.” Meanwhile, a woman says in the newspaper she could not hold back her tears when learning that her son was made a sexual slave to a headmaster with such a morbid inclination. “My son several times asked his parents to send him to another school, but we simply encouraged him to stay at this boarding school, without knowing that he suffered this dirty act,” says the mother.

Dang Hoa Nam, head of the Bureau for Protection and Care of Children under the labor ministry, says in Tuoi Tre that the headmaster not only violates the law but also infringes the ethics for teachers, and “it by all means is unacceptable in a learning environment.”

Some other news outlets also name the culprit as a hypocrite, as months earlier he himself had chaired an extra-curriculum workshop on fighting child sex abuse.

In late May, according to Lao Dong, this boarding school coordinated with Phu Tho Police to organize a workshop on fighting sexual abuse against children, where the headmaster Dinh Bang My gave a lecture to nearly 400 students on how to protect themselves from sexual abuse. At the workshop, a school official was also entrusted to study international conventions and prevalent laws on children protection, Lao Dong reports, citing news from this very school’s website.

Now, the society has seen the real face of the hypocrite Dinh Bang My, says

Minister of Education and Training Phung Xuan Nha has demanded tough disciplinary action apart from legal punishment, while Deputy Prime Minister Vu Duc Dam has also ordered that the culprit be eliminated from the education sector.

The minister, however, stresses that harsh punishment as per the law is just a remedial measure, while the radical solution is to equip students with knowledge of self protection. “To have effective radical solutions, students must be equipped with knowledge and skills to ward off sexual abuse,” the minister is quoted in the media outlet Gia Dinh & Xa Hoi. He furthers that the ministry will enhance training of such skills for students.

Meanwhile, Deputy Minister of Education and Training Nguyen Thi Nghia, at a regular meeting this Tuesday, said the ministry would see all misdeeds like violence and insults by teachers against students, especially the sexual abuse, as profound experiences, and would instruct all schools and teachers to attend more to such issues, according to Thanh Nien.

However, the local media calls attention to the deteriorating environment in the education sector.

“The question is why the school, which should be a safe place for children, could become a venue of such scandalous events,” ponders Similarly, the news site of An ninh Thu do charges that sexual abuse at schools has posed painful worries to the society while such places should be safe places for children.

In this sensational case, local educators, law enforcement agencies and other responsible organizations had never known about the criminal act, until it was unveiled by the media. Commenting on this absence of awareness, Lawyer Ta Ngoc Van says in Tuoi Tre that the school management board, and district- and province-level education bodies must also be held responsible, as the illegal acts have gone unnoticed for years.

Nguoi Lao Dong says schools should have been venues where love, openness and democracy should thrive, but such merits have not been nurtured. Given all the violence and counter-educational behaviors and now the sexual abuse, the paper, in a more straightforward manner, challenges the education ministry for its lack of responsibility in ensuring a safe place for children. “While further training against such violence and abuse is necessary, the minister has failed to mention the deteriorating learning environment, which should be the root cause of such wrongdoing,” says the paper.

Nguoi Lao Dong says sexual abuse and violence at school have become huge problems facing the country’s education sector, and punishing the violator is a matter of course. But it is no less important to question the responsibility of leaders for an unsafe learning environment, asserts the paper.

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