Around 300 schoolchildren and their parents marched on Monday to protest what they called the collection of illegal school fees in north-central Vietnam’s Nghe An province, protest participants told RFA’s Vietnamese Service today.
The march, which ended peacefully, was the latest in a series of protests at the Dien Doai primary school that saw parents attacked and beaten by government-linked thugs in February after seeking a meeting with school administrators.
Those taking part in the protest march numbered just fewer than half of the school’s 700-student enrollment, one parent told RFA, calling himself Phuong and declining to give a surname.
“Around 300 students did not go to school and joined their parents today. We walked for only about 20 minutes from our homes to the school and back,” he said.
“The police watched, but did not stop us,” he said.
Students at Dien Doai are required to pay VND 90,000 (U.S. $3.60) each month to cover the cost of what are called “extra classes,” and though some students’ families have agreed to pay the fee, others have not, and many have stayed out of school since April 9, he said.
The school began to collect the fee at the beginning of the year, another parent, named Tinh, told RFA.
“They did this even though provincial authorities have said they are not allowed to charge the fee, and so we have decided to keep our children at home to protest the collection,” Tinh said.
Petitions go unanswered
School representatives and local government authorities have visited students’ families to urge them to return their children to school, but parents refused because authorities have done nothing to stop the school from collecting the fee, Tinh said.
Parents have petitioned provincial and district authorities several times for help in ending the collection, but have so far received no response, sources said.
On Feb. 23, parents of Catholic children barred from the school after their families refused to pay the extra fee were attacked outside school gates by government-linked thugs when they sought a meeting with school administrators, sources told RFA in earlier reports.
The assault by the Red Flags group in the Dien Doai commune of Nghe An province’s Dien Chau district left several hurt when they were “suddenly and violently” attacked, several of the children’s parents said.
Government-supporting Red Flags groups frequently mobilize to attack Catholic priests and parishioners in Vietnam in what social media users and rights groups describe as state-sponsored abuse in the one-party communist state.
Reported by RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Translated by Viet Ha. Written in English by Richard Finney.