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Bringing the World Wide Web to more kids in rural Vietnam

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During a visit to Vietnam over the holidays, I journeyed south through the Mekong Delta, on a five-hour road trip from Ho Chi Minh City to Tra Vinh. Most of the people here make their living by planting and farming rice. However, since this region has experienced severe droughts and saltwater intrusion year after year, life has been particularly grueling for many families.

Kids in this part of the country typically don’t have access to a computer until they’re about 15 years old, and when they do, they usually only receive very limited training. Of Tra Vinh’s 25 primary schools, only five have computer rooms. This is in stark contrast to the more urban areas of Vietnam, where nearly every school has access to computers and an Internet connection.

Teaming up with Saigon Children’s Charity, we worked on a project to fund more Internet-enabled computer rooms, and train teachers to use and maintain these facilities at two schools in Tra Vinh. Each academic year, we hope more than 700 students between 6 and 11 years old will get to make use of two new “labs” at Hùng Hoà B and Tập Ngãi C schools.
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    Most of the 5 hour drive from Ho Chi Minh City to Tra Vinh was on roads like this
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    Tập Ngãi C school in Tra Vinh is home to 500 students, between 6 and 11 years old.
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    Eager students at Tập Ngãi C school
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    A typical classroom at Tập Ngãi C school
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    Unveiling a small plaque outside the computer lab. Left to right: Ms. Nguyễn Lê Yêu Thương (Saigon Children’s Charity); Mrs. Nguyễn Thị Vinh (Deputy People Committee of Tieu Can District), me, and Mr. Thái Văn Phúc (Principal of Tập Ngãi C School)
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    The kids rushed in to find that each of them could freely use a computer
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    Here’s what the computer lab at Tập Ngãi C school looks like
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Nothing can beat seeing the kids’ excitement as they rushed into the newly-equipped computer room. It was remarkable to see how quickly they learned how to use a mouse and keyboard to navigate the Internet. Even more thrilling was witnessing how empowered they were to explore the world around them by typing in whatever question they had in mind into the search bar. I had to smile when Nghĩa, an 8 year-old student, told me: “I have hundreds and hundreds of questions to ask and now I'm not afraid of anyone yelling at me for asking so many questions".

I have hundreds and hundreds of questions to ask and now I'm not afraid of anyone yelling at me for asking so many questions. Nghĩa
8-year-old student at Tập Ngãi C school

It’s incredible how much these 10 year-olds picked up in just an hour. I’m truly excited about all the many other things they’ll learn and do for their communities when they bring along their curiosity to these new rooms that give them a window to all of the information and possibilities on the World Wide Web. 

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