Following on from my earlier blog entry about the myth of 'street kids have no families', today I want to write about another comment that I often hear, particularly from other charities in Vietnam.
In itself, it sounds fair and reasonable. Vocational training is good for street street kids. Who could disagree with that?
The problem is that this myth works on two assumptions.
First, it assumes that street kids are basically all the same, and equally, street kids are different to everyone else. And yet, street kids are as varied and different as any other group of young people in the world.
Second, and worse, is the assumption that street kids are not interested in academics. Vocational training tends to be hands-on study leading to work in hospitality or a trade. In believing that this is what all street kids want to do, it ignores those who are actually good at their studies and would like to go on to university, for example.
Since we started, Blue Dragon has worked with over 2000 kids. Each is as individual as any child in any family or school anywhere.
One of the kids we worked with, a boy, has gone on to work for the government as a garbage collector. He has a stable job, he loves the team he works in, and he has saved up enough money to build a small house for himself.
Another of our kids, a girl now aged 18, is studying civil engineering at university. She is having a terrific time, coming close to the top of her classes, and thrives on the challenges of the academic pursuit she's taken on.
We also have plenty of kids who have indeed gone on to vocational training - including at VIP Bikes and KOTO, two training enterprises in Hanoi.
The point is that you can't say "vocational training is good for street kids" any more than you can say "vocational training is good for all kids." And it's not. It's perfect for some, ok for others, and inadequate for the rest.
In other words, street kids need the same options and opportunities as the rest of us.