80 Days Closed – Vietnam’s Teachers, Child Carers and Parents Adapt to Life Without School

Without children, teachers, learning and laughter, OneSky’s Early Learning Centre (ELC) in Da Nang, and Home Based Childcare (HBC) centers, have been left empty.

Vietnam’s strict measures to control the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) have meant the closure of educational facilities across the country for the past 80 days. Now finally, there is hope the children will return soon.

The ELC serves the children of rural migrant workers living in the surrounding factory zone. During the past year, OneSky has run a program aimed at raising HBC standards and skills. For many low-paid families, HBC is their only affordable childcare option.

Meet a home-based carer: Hoa and her sister take care of 14 toddlers.

While OneSky teachers have continued to be paid as they wait for schools to reopen, many HBC providers have not been so fortunate.

As we wait for our ELC and HBC program to resume, we asked a carer, a teacher, a trainer and parent to share their experience of the last 80 days.

Ms. Khanh – Home Based Carer

“Looking back over the weeks of closure due to the COVID-19 virus, I have gone through so many emotions. I’m sad that schools are shut and we haven’t been able to see the children for a long time. I’m worried about the financial situation, and I’ve tried my best to support my staff. I have so much sympathy for all my fellow caregivers at this time, knowing that we’re all in this together. 

“I’ve been trying to keep myself positive. I’m grateful for my health, and grateful that health has been put first and foremost in this battle. I’m also motivated by the support that I’ve had from OneSky trainers and other caregivers through OneSky’s online platform 1GiaDinhLon. For over 20 years working as a caregiver, I’ve almost always been working long hours from Monday to Saturday. This is the first time I’ve allowed myself to slow down and focus more on developing my own skills. I’m sewing seeds for the future and keeping the love and passion for my job alive.”

Ms. Thuy – Early Learning Center Teacher (top right)

“Since the coronavirus pandemic arrived everything is different. I’ve worked as a preschool teacher for over ten years and I’ve never experienced such a long time without the kids. Without their smiles, their voices, the sounds of them running and giggling, A school is not a school without children. They are its heart. I’m longing for the day the kids are back to fill this space with their laughter again.”

Ms. Thi – Home Based Carer Trainer

“With all the schools and home-based care centers closed, my heart goes out to all the caregivers, who have lost income during this difficult time. They’re all very hardworking women who have been so dedicated to providing affordable childcare for working parents.

“However, over these 10 weeks, I’ve also felt overwhelmed with the support and passion that our caregivers have shown towards one another. Despite so many worries and such uncertainty, they have raised each other up, encouraged one another, and been so keen to learn. Many have decorated and constantly cleaned their premises, so they could always be ready to welcome the children back. It’s their dedication that makes me feel so fortunate and inspired to work with them.”

Vo Thi Hien, OneSky Vietnam Program Director

“We will never forget this time when the whole country – public sector, private sector and the people – came together to fight the coronavirus. We understand deeply that each person’s effort and struggles help keep all of us safe and each of us are trying to help wherever we can. At the center of our world are the children. Their safety and bright future are paramount.

“The ELC was set up to take care of the children of rural migrants. Their parents moved to this city to find work in factories and have nobody else to rely on for childcare. Without us, moms and dads are having to miss much-needed shifts or take children back to grandparents in the countryside. Neither is easy for them.

“During this school closure, our teachers have shared information with parents on how to best protect the children from COVID-19. We have also given guidance on home care including parenting advice and how to support children’s ongoing development. At the same time, we are working so hard to prepare the ELC for the children returning. This includes improving our environment and our own skills. We are ready to welcome the children back to school any time.

“We miss the children. The day they return will be very special for all of us. We can’t wait to see them again.”

Ms Thoa – Early Learning Center Parent

“During the 10 weeks of school closure, for the first few weeks we struggled to find alternative childcare. Some weeks we took turns taking leave to look after Phong, some weeks we sent him back to my parents home. Other weeks we would ask for support from my parents-in-law.

“After that, we gradually got used to the situation and realized we have spent more time together as a family, and also Phong has seen more of our wider family group than ever before. Overall, we’re grateful that the government is making every effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, and putting the health of us and our children first.

“Phong often talks about the good times he used to have with his teachers and friends, about the lessons he learned at the ELC, the games that he played. And we often talk about the day the school will reopen, so all these beautiful memories will become real again.”