Vietnamese kids are using plastic bags as school transport

You may have hated your old yellow school bus, but spare a thought for Vietnamese kids. They’re being dragged to school in plastic bags.

Sep 30, 2019 |
3 min read

Education is important, that’s no secret. For people from developing and impoverished countries, it’s even more so. Parents from many territories dream of their children becoming educated enough to move to a more financially solvent country.

Take Vietnam, for example. Despite torrential rainfall making bridges inhospitable in the mountain village of Huoi Hua, truancy is still not an option. Parents are taking children to school in a unique way. They’re being placed in plastic bags and transported across flooded rivers to school.

Photo by vov.vn

You can watch this unfold in real-time by viewing this video. Don’t panic, it’s not a horror film – though obviously, it’s not recommending for anybody faint of heart.

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What? That looks so dangerous!

Oh, it is. Placing a child in a sealed plastic bag is undoubtedly life-threatening. They may stay dry, but there’s always the risk of suffocation. This is a risk that Vietnamese parents are willing to take, though.

If it makes you feel any better, it’s a risk shared by these parents. They are making the journey themselves – without the comparative safety of a plastic bag.

The flooding of this territory means that bridges between dry land can no longer be negotiated. Wondering why the people of Huoi Hua do not merely create makeshift rafts and canoes? That’s a no-go, too.

Photo by vov.vn

The waters are choppy and stormy and filled with rapids. There is a considerable risk that any water-based transport would quickly be carried away with the current. An adult may be strong enough to withstand these waters, but very few children will.

This makes the plastic bag technique the lesser of all possible evils – at least according to these parents. Staying home and skipping school is simply not an option.

The children are placed in bags to keep them dry, and the parents do everything in their power to transport them to school. They’ll wade, paddle, swim and generally placed their own lives in danger. Kinda puts the frustrations of the morning school run in suburban America into perspective, doesn’t it?

Photo by vov.vn

And they seriously do this twice a day?

Actually, no. Battling through the river and into dry land is only half the battle. The kids then need to hike for around five hours to reach the school. Although these parents are dedicated, there are limits to what they are willing to go through.

Photo by vov.vn

The children of Huoi Hua arrive at school on a Monday morning and stay there for a week. Strictly speaking, this is not a boarding school arrangement. There are no formal arrangements for beds and mealtimes. It’s just a case of necessity being the mother of invention.

The kids remain at the school for five days and return home at the weekends. We’d hate to be the kid that comes home with a C on their math test after all that effort.

I hope all of this is worth it

Well, the parents that put their children through this arduous commute clearly think so. Perhaps their thinking is that their children will be able to use their education to move to another, less-flooded territory.

The good news is that, in general, the Vietnamese education sector has a fine reputation. It’s deemed to be a highly competitive environment for students, who are often encouraged to pit themselves against each other. Somehow, they still have the energy to do so after what they’ve already been through.

Problems for children from these territories do no end with arriving in school, though. As a communist country, Vietnamese law dictates that primary education is free for all students. Great – you don’t travel to school in a plastic bag if you’re wealthy.

Sadly, this does not tell the whole story. Uniforms, textbooks, and other expenses will start to mount. This is far from ideal for poor parents that are already struggling to make ends meet.

If a bright side is to be found, however, it’s the value that is clearly placed upon education. Children that go through these experiences are unlikely to skip classes and smoke cigarettes in the boy’s room.

We can only hope that they will rise up to become intelligent and well-rounded leaders of industry in the future. If that’s the case, the people of Vietnam will consider all of this hardship to be worthwhile.

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