Social Headlines December 31

Son La provides 3,300 tonnes of rice for students

The People’s Committee of the northern mountainous province of Son La has decided to provide more than 3,300 tonnes of rice to 44,485 local students in 293 schools in 11 poor districts.

Accordingly, the students, mostly from the districts of Song Ma, Muong La, Bac Yen and Thuan Chau, will receive 15 kilograms of rice every month each for the first five months of the 2013-2014 academic year.

The rice will be delivered before January 20, 2014.

Son La has nearly 800 schools in 11 mountainous districts, including five poor ones with nearly 300,000 students, 80 percent of them are from ethnic minority groups.-

Ha Noi hospital carries out kidney transplant

Doctors at the Saint Paul Hospital and medical staff of the Ha Noi Health Department have successfully conducted a three-hour kidney transplant for a 30-year-old woman.

The patient, whose name was not released, hails from the northern province of Thai Binh. She was diagnosed with chronic kidney failure at stage 3. Her mother donated one of her kidneys to enable the transplant. The patient is reported to be in stable condition after the surgery.

The local health department covered all expenses for the transplant because it is the first time such a procedure had been performed under its watch.

The country now has 14 hospitals that have successfully conducted kidney transplants.

Americans donate $55,000 to NGOs

A group of 10 American donors have raised a total of US$55,000 to donate to six non-governmental organisations in Viet Nam during a recent philanthropy trip to the country.

During the 11-day trip hosted by the US-based 11Plus organisation, the group visited Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta, Hue and Ha Noi, for both visiting and philanthropic purposes.

They met with local authorities and visited shelters for orphaned children, health clinics and training centres for children with disabilities.

First Analog + 1 training course opens

The Integrated Circuit Design Research and Education Centre (ICDREC) under the Viet Nam National University, HCM City opened the country’s first Analog + 1 design training course last Friday.

The 10-month course is part of the chip-design training project included in Integrated Circuits Development Plan for the 2013 – 20 period. It was approved by the HCM City People’s Committee in 2012.

The training course aims to provide high-quality human resources for Viet Nam’s IC industry and HCM City’s chip development industry.

Head of child centre faces embezzlement charge

The Ha Giang Police Department yesterday filed a criminal case of embezzlement of property and money meant for aiding children at the provincial Disabled Children Relief Centre.

Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc recently asked the province to investigate and take strict action against any violation of the law after receiving a report of the case from the province’s People’s Committee chairman.

Earlier, the authorities had discovered that the centre’s director Pham Ngoc Thanh and his two staff members had embezzled nearly VND182 million (US$8,600) of funds meant for buying medical facilities and had appropriated the traffic and meal allowances meant for children during examinations and screening processes during 2012-13.

However, the police and the People’s procuracy did not file criminal charges in the case and sent it to the province’s Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs department as a case of administrative violations. That decision caused discontent among the province’s people.

Noodles, bamboo shoots found to contain oxalic acid

Certain foods in HCM City have been found with high quantities of oxalic acid, according to deputy chairman of the city Public Health Association, Professor Chu Pham Ngoc Son.

The revelation was made at a workshop on food safety held on Thursday, which announced the results of random tests carried out on foods in the city.

The tests were conducted from late June until December by HCM City-based firm Sac Ky Hai Dang Science Technology Services Joint Stock Company.

They have been taken from four local enterprises including Phong Ky in District 6, Dinh Thanh Le and Pham Van Nang in Cu Chi District, and an enterprise whose name is yet to be revealed.

Around 873 samples were taken from vermicelli noodles, instant noodles and bamboo shoots with nearly 41 per cent testing positive for high levels of oxalic acid, which is currently banned from use in food products.

Dr. Phan The Dong, former head of HCM City University of Agriculture and Forestry’s Food Technology Department, told Lao Dong (Labour) Newspaper that regular consumption of oxalic acid over a long period of time would result in a lack of minerals and malnutrition.

“People suffering from diseases such as kidney disorder, rheumatism, and gout should not eat food containing this type of acid,” he advised, adding that oxalic acid could also cause kidney stones and urinary tract problems.

All instant noodle and bamboo shoot samples were found to contain high levels of oxalic acid, ranging from 30.8 to 449mg per kilo for instant noodles and 295-3,080mg per kilo for bamboo shoots.

Additionally, around 60 per cent of fun guo, wood ear, steamed rolled rice pancake, sponge cake, tea, and carrot samples were found to contain oxalic acid levels between 73.5-293mg per kilo.

A test by the HCM City Food Safety and Hygiene Department in August also showed four samples of dried noodles and wheat gluten taken from shops in the city contained oxalic acid, with the department returning to conduct a second round of tests for confirmation.

In the second tests, the amount of oxalic acid found in dried noodles and wheat gluten was a massive 142mg and 40.1mg per kilo.

In spite of the damning results, shop owners have been reluctant to accept the results of the tests. One owner of Phong Ky enterprise denied their dried noodles contained any oxalic acid alleging they were made from wheat, eggs, food colouring, and safe addictives.

Nevertheless, test results have continued to find high levels of oxalic acid contained in the goods.

Get tough on smuggling as Tet nears: Deputy PM

Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc has urged local authorities and government agencies to work together to prevent smuggling and related activities during the upcoming Tet (Lunar New Year) festival.

The focus will be to monitor the illegal transportation of goods, including water transport modes, through the border areas and other key areas where a large quantity of smuggled products is likely to be consumed, he said at a meeting of the National Steering Committee for Smuggling, Counterfeit Goods Trading and Commercial Frauds Prevention on Saturday.

He added that localities must prepare and implement specific measures to prevent smuggling, the sale of counterfeit products and trade fraud. They must also handle violations strictly, including punishing officials found attempting to cover up such violations.

Phuc noted that while smuggling activities and trade frauds have become more complicated, the related legal framework remains weak and ineffective. There is also little attention being paid to warnings about an increase in fraudulent activities during specific periods.

According to experts, smuggling activities and the trading in counterfeit products surge around the Tet festival because of an increase in demand for goods, in particular, clothes, food items and household products.

The steering committee reported that regulatory authorities have, so far this year, handled nearly 80,000 cases of smuggling, counterfeit product trading and commercial frauds, leading to the imposition of a cumulative fine of over VND350 billion (US$16.4 million).

This time around, the local authorities are implementing a market stabilisation programme and are storing products in anticipation of higher demand during and before the Tet holiday, so that people from all walks of life, particularly those living in remote, rural and mountainous areas, can easily gain access to the products they need.

HCM City raises its poverty line

HCM City will raise its poverty line to VND16 million per person per year for the 2014-15 period, according to the city’s Department of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs.

Families with an income of VND16-21 million per person per year will be considered living near poverty line.

Under the city’s current poverty line, households with an income of less than VND12 million per person per year are considered poor.

The country’s poverty line is VND400,000 per person per month in rural areas and VND500,000 per person per month in urban areas.

Nguyen Van Xe, deputy director of the city’s Department of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs, said the third phase of the programme on reducing poverty and increasing wealth of middle-income families would be completed two years ahead of schedule.

Xe spoke at a meeting between the National Assembly Standing Committee’s supervisory delegation and the city’s People’s Committee on Thursday last week.

The third phase is scheduled to be implemented in the 2009-15 period.

As of this month, the city has 16,000 households living under the city’s poverty line, accounting for 0.8 per cent of the population.

Nine of the city’s 24 districts have no households considered poor.

At the meeting, city officials said some poor households might not receive help because the city’s poverty line is higher than the country’s poverty line.

City officials have petitioned the Government to allow the city to continue applying national poverty support policies for the city’s poor and near-poor households in the 2014-20 period.

City officials asked the Government to allow the city’s poor and near-poor households to borrow loans from preferential loan programmes of the Bank of Social Policy.

Nguyen Trong Dam, deputy minister of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs, said the ministry would gradually withdraw Government’s support funds for poor and nearly poor households in Ha Noi, Da Nang, HCM City and Binh Duong Province, which have a higher poverty line than the country’s.

Nation’s hopes rest on students

The Viet Nam Students’ Association (VSA) should arouse and nurture students’ aspirations and dreams, National Assembly Chairman Nguyen Sinh Hung said yesterday.

It should also foster enthusiasm for science, technology, culture and all other areas of study, he told 650 representatives of more than 2 million Vietnamese students at the opening of the association’s Ninth National Congress.

Hung praised the association’s past achievements and urged it to intensify emulation movements, promote students’ vanguard role and creativity and provide them with necessary support.

He said that the Party and State had consistently placed their faith and hope in students as those who are going to uphold and promote the nation’s honour and values in the future.

He noted that the recently-concluded sixth session of the 13th National Assembly had adopted important amendments aimed at ensuring the right to education for every Vietnamese citizen.

Congress delegates defined the main goals for the association’s next term.

They agreed that a primary task would be to build a generation of students with lofty ideals,wholesome and healthy lifestyles and excellence in academic pursuits.

The students will also be encouraged to engage in scientific research and be innovative in applying new technologies, they said.

Students must also be a part of the education reform process and contribute actively to promoting the potentials of each Vietnamese citizen, the delegates said.

They agreed that the association should develop itself so that it can adapt to new conditions and environments.

The congress adopted numerous documents outlining the association’s tasks for the new term and elected a 99-member executive board.

Le Quoc Phong, secretary of the Ho Chi Minh Communist Youth Union, was elected as the association’s president for the 2014-2018 term.

The VSA is a socio-political organisation with 22 chapters in cities and provinces nationwide. It groups 47 centrally-run school-level chapters, and five abroad – in France, the Republic of Korea, the Netherlands, Germany and Belgium.

On the sidelines of the congress, the student representatives had a chance to converse with Deputy Prime Minister Vu Duc Dam and leaders of several ministries and agencies on issues of importance to students nationwide, including employment opportunities and incentives to engage in scientific research.

Primary schools offer road-safety education

The Department of Education and Training in HCM City in coordination with the Traffic Safety Committee has launched a road-safety advocacy programme at local schools.

Education on pedestrian safety as well as equipment will be provided to more than 13,000 students in the city.

The Walk With FedEx initiative will be offered in classrooms via fun games to students at 14 primary schools in the city between December and April.

Comedy presentations and pedestrian safety-themed performances by the HCM City Drama Union will be staged at schools from February to April.

Can Tho urged to tap gateway potential

Can Tho city should tap every opportunity to fulfill its potential as a gateway for areas downstream the Mekong River in the Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta, Le Hong Anh, Politburo Member and a Permanent Member of the Communist Party of Viet Nam’s Central Committee’s Secretariat, said yesterday.

Speaking at a meeting held yesterday to mark the 10th anniversary of Can Tho becoming a central-level city, he said the city should also strive to develop into an industrial centre, as well as a centre for trade and services, education and training, science and technology, healthcare and culture, he said.

To achieve that goal, the city should mobilise and effectively use its available resources to boost competitiveness and economic development at a rapid but sustainable pace, Anh added.

An attempt should also be made to shift the economic structure towards industry, services and highly advanced agriculture. In addition, efforts should continue at developing a socio-economic infrastructure, culture, healthcare, education and training, poverty reduction, as well as improving the living conditions of local residents, he noted.

The city’s Party Committee Secretary, Tran Thanh Man, said Can Tho has taken efforts to develop rapidly despite several challenges over the past 10 years.

The city recorded an average annual GDP growth of 14.5 per cent during 2004-2013, while the annual per capita income increased by six times to VND63 million ($3,000) by 2013.

During this period, the city has poured investments into building transport infrastructure, such as bridges, national highways, airports and commercial centres.

Apart from economic development, the city has also focused on promoting healthcare, education, job generation and poverty reduction programmes, he noted.

However, shortcomings remain and the city’s development has not yet fulfilled its potential, he added, citing unequal infrastructure development, low human resource quality and the limited application of science and technology as major reasons.

The city has a total population of 1.2 million and a total area of 1,

Schools search for online-learning solutions

E-learning plays an important role in today’s classrooms, with positive and negative results, a university lecturer said at a recent workshop on IT in schools held in HCM City yesterday.

Assoc Prof Nguyen Dinh Thuc of HCM City’s University of Sciences said that instructional design models and online learning systems could satisfy educational needs at different levels.

With the advantages of technology, most systems can now provide useful services and learning activities, he added.

Learning systems include Blackboard, JoomlaLMS, SharePointLS, Sakai, Atutor and Moodle, Thuc said.

E-learning allows students to be flexible in their use of time and space.

However, communication between teachers and students and unappealing self-study activities are two drawbacks, he said.

The system also is dependent on the learning environment providing convenient services or activities to realise proposed strategies, he added.

According to Thuc, designing strategies using online-learning remains a major issue for researchers and e-learning developers, he said.

He suggested that active learning and collaborative learning methods should be widely applied in an online-learning environment.

In active learning, students do their own research and take initiative, while collaborative learning focuses on teamwork. This kind of learning helps to realise UNESCO’s 21st century learning standards.

Dr Nguyen Manh Tuan of School of Industrial Management under the University of Technology said that collaboration between learners and teachers in an online environment was critical.

Universities should identify what learners need from e-learning, he added.

Asso. Prof Tran Van Hao, rector of the Vocational College of Technology, said that e-learning methods must agree with learners’ time and money as well as their level.

With four-year experience in providing part-time online-learning courses, Thuc said that one challenge is developing learning content.

The school spends VND40 million-50 million (US$1,904-2,380) to develop learning content in one subject, he said.

A representative of the HCM City University of Technical Education said that they had faced the same challenge when implementing e-learning in the university.

The workshop also discussed trends in e-learning and the latest IT technology alternatives that are poised to become mainstream educational strategies in the near future.

Healthcare out of touch with reality

Local authorities do not have adequate knowledge about the various problems in their areas, as a result of which they cannot tackle several important issues.

That was part of a statement made by Nguyen Sy Cuong, a member of the National Assembly’s Laws Committee, at a conference on the role of local authorities in the health sector in Ha Noi on Thursday.

He noted that as a result of that lack of knowledge, local authorities could not tackle important issues despite having thousands of medical inspectors at their disposal.

The conference aimed to define the responsibilities of central and local agencies in managing the health sector. As part of that process, it proposed the creation of a health system from the grassroots level.

Cuong said it is his belief that the workforce of the health sector currently lags in professionalism, with some preventive care centres and district-level medical centres carrying out tasks that are supposed to be carried out by state-level agencies.

Whenever a problem arises, there is little clarity on who is responsible for providing solutions, he added.

Do Trung Hai, deputy head of the municipal People’s Council’s Culture and Social Affairs Committee, pointed out that while Ha Noi has regulations about what the city’s and districts’ responsibilities are if a problem occurs, there are difficulties in implementing those regulations.

For instance, when local authorities inspect a medical station, station personnel refuse to accept the authorities’ suggestions because they believe they come under the management of the Department of Health.

The Ministry of Health (MoH) should, therefore, act as advisor to the government and offer suggestions on how to empower local authorities, added Hai.

Minister of Health Nguyen Thi Kim Tien stated that while the ministry is responsible for supervising medical stations in relation to their professional performance, local authorities have the responsibility of monitoring the personnel and the organisation.

However, several people seem to be unaware of their individual responsibilities, she said.

Director of the MoH’s Department of Legislation Nguyen Huy Quang proposed a restructuring of the health system and the introduction of new laws to manage medical stations and hospitals.

Standing member of the National Assembly’s Committee of Social Affairs Nguyen Thi Kha suggested that the MoH should set up a committee to provide an immediate response to the issue of poor professionalism and assign responsibilities to the required people within a specified time frame.

Kha noted that co-operation has also been lacking between the health sector and local authorities over the past year. For instance, if a baby dies after receiving a vaccination in the central province of Quang Tri’s Huong Hoa district, the health sector assigns some medical workers to the province to investigate the issue.

However, the medical workers can only focus on the vaccination technique and lack the legal and management skills required to understand the situation comprehensively.

Large medical stations and hospitals must have lawyers who can be accessed quickly whenever a problem occurs, added Kha.

Shoddy electrical work threatens public safety

An estimated 60 per cent of fires that broke out across the country this year were caused by electrical faults, heard a recent workshop.

The rate was announced by Vu Trung Hoa, head of the Ministry of Construction’s Department of Science, Technology and Environment.

Therefore, he said, Viet Nam needed national regulations on electrical installations instead of relying on existing basic standards to ensure safety in residential and public buildings.

During the meeting, changes and amendments made by experts and managers in the field of electrical work, both at local and central levels, were taken into consideration to compile draft regulations which should be released in the first half of 2014.

Vu Dinh Luyen, an official at the Viet Nam Institute for Building Science and Technology and Science Secretary of the Drafting Committee, said they had received valuable feedback from participants.

Ideas were submitted by Government officials, scientists, manufacturers and innovators of electrical products, as well as from other developed Southeast Asian countries including Singapore and Malaysia through the International Copper Association.

The International Copper Association’s Southeast Asia division, a civilian electrical safety organisation, is co-operating with the Ministry of Construction to develop national regulations for electrical installations.

The regulations will include specific standards to meet the demands of modern electrical installations and safety in residential and public buildings.

In addition to these, the regulations will enforce compulsory safety requirements areas such as bathrooms, swimming pools and medical zones.

Over VND397 billion in Tet gifts for social policy beneficiaries

The Minister of Labour, Invalids, and Social Affairs (MoLISA) has asked the State President to reserve VND397.305 billion in the 2014 State budget to purchase gifts for social policy beneficiaries during the approaching Lunar New Year (Tet) Festival.

Social policy beneficiaries include pensioners, Agent Orange/Dioxin victims, and citizens who have rendered great services to the nation’s revolutionary cause, such as heroes of the armed forces, war veterans, heroic mothers, war invalids, and the families of martyred soldiers.

Each Tet gift is worth between VND200,000 and VND400,000.

Dong Nai to create jobs for over 90,000 locals in 2014

The southern province of Dong Nai has set a target of generating jobs for over 90,000 labourers and providing vocational training courses for about 10,000 others in its rural areas in 2014.

Deputy Director of the provincial Department of Labour, War Invalids and Social Affairs Lam Duy Tin said the province helped 92,000 people land jobs in 2013, 2 percent higher than the plan set for the year.

In the year, 65,000 people were trained with vocational skills, including 7,500 rural labourers. Up to 70 percent of them found jobs.

Job generation efforts helped 8,000 underprivileged households in the province escaped from poverty, lowering the rate of poor families to 1.7 percent. The province targets to reduce the rate to less than 1 percent in 2014.

Dong Nai is applying a poverty line standard of under VND850,000 per month per person for urban people and under VND650,000 per month per person for rural people. The standard will increase in the 2015-2020 period.

In 2013, the province saw 150 new foreign invested projects and existing ones to increase capital. Many projects are scheduled to become operational in 2014 and will need a large number of labourers for their business and production.

The province is working towards a rapid and sustainable economic growth to become an industrial province by 2015.