Ethnic students to get free schooling

Students from the smallest ethnic minority groups at all education levels will be exempted from education fees beginning in March this year following a recently issued Government decree.

Ethnic minority students from disadvantaged areas will also benefit from the policy.

The decree also prioritises the development of educational facilities for ethnic minority students. Nursery schools all the way up to high schools and vocational training schools, along with community-based learning centres, will be improved to help promote human resources training.

The decree also sets out concrete conditions and measures that aim to support ethnic students by providing them with accommodations or loan provisions. Schools will also be required to hire ethnic teachers that will be sent to low-income areas to work.

A resettlement area in Phieng Lanh Town in the northern mountainous province of Son La's Quynh Nhai District. Ethnic minority students are to be exempted from school fees from March following a recently issued Government decree.
A resettlement area in Phieng Lanh Town in the northern mountainous province of Son La's Quynh Nhai District. Ethnic minority students are to be exempted from school fees from March following a recently issued Government decree.

Regarding sustainable development policies, the decree requires relevant ministries and agencies to ensure that ample investment is made in socio-economic development and basic infrastructure in areas that are inhabited by ethnic groups. The policies aim to effectively tap the potential of each region, while also protecting the areas' environments.

Officials have been instructed to create favourable conditions to draw more investment from organisations, individuals and businesses both inside and outside the country. They should also focus on developing vocational training programmes, using local labourers, providing residents with stable incomes and improving infrastructure in relevant areas.

Ministries and agencies have been instructed to implement poverty reduction programmes; generate jobs; and solve problems relating to capital, land and production for ethnic farmers.

The decree requires officials to develop natural disaster prevention plans in relevant areas.

With regards to health care, the health ministry was instructed to ensure that ethnic citizens receive access to health care services. The ministry must also create health care and health insurance programmes for ethnic groups that are in line with current regulations.

The ministry will also focus on upgrading and expanding treatment facilities and provide ethnic groups with more medical supplies.

Concerning information and telecommunications, the decree requires the Ministry of Information and Communications to focus on developing the telecommunication's infrastructure in these areas and provide basic equipment to the affected groups.

Under the decree, ethnic minorities with low incomes will have access to free legal services.

During the past year, the Government passed several policies that seek to support ethnic groups, particularly Programme 135 - Phase 2.

The five-year poverty reduction programme, which was implemented between 2006 and 2010, had a budget of approximately US$800 million. The programme sought to improve basic infrastructure, increase market-oriented agriculture production, better socio-cultural livelihoods by improving access to social services and increasing capacity building for officials at all levels to better implement the programme.

The programme, which was implemented in more than 1,950 communes in 50 provinces that are home to a majority of the country's ethnic minority groups, helped reduce poverty rates in impoverished communities from 47 per cent in 2006 to 28.8 per cent in 2010.

Deputy head of the Department for Ethnic Minorities in northern Tuyen Quang Province Au Van Hanh said the living conditions for local ethnic groups were much better in comparison to previous years thanks to Government policies and support programmes.

Per capita income for locals in communes that benefited from Programme 135 increased to more thanVND4 million ($204) per year.

"However, difficulties remain including a lack of infrastructure and little access to social services and education," said Hanh. "The new decree is expected to create more conditions to help bridge the development gap between areas where ethnic minorities live and other areas."

The decree will become effective on March 4.Viet Nam consists of 54 ethnic groups, including 53 minority groups with a total of more than 8 million people. They are scattered across mountainous areas throughout the country.

The largest ethnic minority groups include the Tay, Thai, Muong, Hoa, Khmer and Nung that each have a population of about 1 million people, while the smaller include the Brau, Odu and Ro mam that have several hundred people each.

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