Sunday February 6, 2011
Rising rate of youth violence
By TRAN THI MINH HA
It is the breaking down of morals and family values that is leading Vietnamese youth to resort to fights and other unhealthy activities.
HE STARES in shock at the images of four Vietnamese teenagers slapping and kicking a girl whose hands try to shield the blows.
“How could schoolgirls act like gangsters?” asks Tran Huy Hoang, the father of a 14-year-old girl, as he watches the video clip - apparently filmed by another teenager - posted on the YouTube website.
The girls pulled off their victim’s T-shirt and bra, leaving her half-naked.
It was one of several footages showing violence among Vietnamese youth that have circulated on the Internet over the past year, sparking concern about the media’s role and a breakdown of family-centred social values in its rapidly modernising society.
“The traditional values are vanishing,” said education expert Pham Toan.
Sociologists say there is no data to capture trends in such violence, but it appears to be increasing, although the problem is not confined to Vietnam alone.
“We have to accept the fact that youth violence is on the rise,” said Hoang Ba Thinh, a professor of social work at the Vietnam National University.
Influenced by Confucian values, Vietnam’s young people traditionally had respect for teachers, parents and the elderly. Rich and poor alike were taught the value of hard work, rather than of money itself, said Toan.
“If a grain of rice dropped on the floor, a family elder would remind the rest that a grain of rice was akin to a piece of gold,” he said. Parents now have less time for the family as they pursue material wealth, he said.
“It is all about money and people are spending, not saving,” said Toan.
Although traditional moral principles are taught at school, those virtues are not reinforced at home because parents are focused on improving their lifestyles and and this leaves youngsters confused, he added.
After years of poverty following the country’s reunification in 1975, at the end of the Vietnam War, communist Vietnam in 1986 began to embrace the free market under economic reforms known as doi moi.
The move eventually led to a booming economy with a growth rate that is among the highest in Asia. It now has a per capita income of about US$1,200 (RM3,650).
During wartime and the period of economic hardship that followed, “people were more humane, more passionate and ready to share with each other both sweetness and bitterness,” said Trinh Hoa Binh, from the Institute of Sociology.
While foreigners still see Vietnam as one of the safest countries in Asia, locals are increasingly concerned. Youth violence has become a hot topic on online news sites in the country, where nearly 20% of the 86 million people are between 15 and 24 years old.
In one of the more serious cases, a 15-year-old boy in southern Dalat city was stabbed to death by two other ninth graders, VNExpress news site reported. The motive for the killing was unclear.
There were nearly 1,600 cases of violence in and outside schools in the 2009-2010 academic year, according to the Education Ministry and figures cited by the Lao Dong newspaper.
More than 2,400 students had been reprimanded for their acts, while hundreds were temporarily suspended from school, it said.
The report added that the unrest stemmed from the students’ lack of “life skills, self-restraint and appropriate behaviour to resolve minor quarrels”.
Along with weaker parental supervision, young people are now exposed to “rampant violent images” in the mass media, online games and films, Binh said.
But Vietnam lacks effective social organisations that can help to diffuse the tension and improve the situation, said Toan.
“I think we are now living in a society where people are becoming impersonal and staying away from the community and public activities,” he said.
Luu Thi Mai, a 36-year-old mother, said that only with proper parental guidance could a child stay “on track”.
Sending a child to a good school where one learns the importance of social skills and academic achievements would also be beneficial, she added.
But just in case of trouble, Mai said she still sent her 11-year-old daughter to karate classes so that she could defend herself. — AFP