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|A sad-looking meal served for grade-schoolers at VAS (source: dantri.vn)|
According to a parent of the VAS branch in Sala Mega Campus (District 2, Ho Chi Minh City), after many times hearing her child groan from hunger after school, she and other parents paid a surprise visit to the school – and some of them teared up at the sight of the meal they pay nearly VND50,000 ($2.17) each day.
A meal for grade-schooler includes three small pieces of steamed chicken, two pieces of braised fish, a little fried chayote with carrot, cabbage soup, and one piece of watermelon.
Dantri.vn quoted the parents as saying that the school charged VND7.7 million ($334.8) and VND6.3 million ($273.9) every 10 weeks for the meals of middle- and grade-schoolers. This comes to VND130,000-150,000 (5.6-6.5) a day for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
The case has quickly drawn the attention of local authorities. Accordingly, the Ho Chi Minh City Department of Education and Training decided to inspect the quality of meals at all schools in the area.
Regarding the standards for a school meal, Bui Thi Diem Thu, deputy director of the department said that a meal for a grade-schooler must cost at least VND30,000 ($1.30). The cost would ensure the food safety standards approved by the Ministry of Education and Training (MoET) and the National Institute of Nutrition. She also expressed concern about the quality of VAS’ meals (that cost VND50,000 each), uncertain whether they satisfy the MoET’s standards.
In the latest development, VAS, the Management Board of Sala Mega Campus, and the catering supplier Aden admitted that there had been failures in the management and inspection of the quantity of meals before serving students in recent times. This was reaffirmed by VAS’ press release after several parents have filed complaints about the low nutrition value of meals and the poor quality of the food.
“We would like to express our sincere apologies to the students and parents of Sala Mega Campus and thank you for your co-operation and feedback so we can improve our service quality promptly,” said VAS’ press release.
Under that, one of the practical solutions that VAS and Aden will roll out to improve the students' meals at Sala Mega campus starting from Monday, September 23, 2019 includes improving the flavour of the dishes and ensuring the food is hot before serving.
The school will tighten inspection and supervision of raw material suppliers and publish the list of suppliers; will be more stringent in the supervision of food distribution, the quantity and quality of each tray before being served; and will take photos of all meals served in a day (breakfast, lunch and snack) and will display them on the television at Sala campus’ lobby for parents to see.
VAS' staff will collaborate with Aden to continue the periodical audits on food quantity and quality, hygiene and safety, as well as tighten the implementation of 22 procedures of food processing and operation by Aden and the four-step food monitoring by VAS.
VAS will also conduct surveys to collect students' opinions on the quality of meals and make continuous improvements.
“We hope that the efforts of VAS and Aden in improving and upgrading the quality of meal service will promote practical efficiency and bring satisfaction to students and parents in upcoming time,” it said.
According to VAS’ notification in 2019-2020 school year, the highest annual school fee is VND425 million ($18,478) for 12thgrader students, and the lowest is VND143 million ($6,217) for grade-schoolers. The annual charge for meals is VND26.46-38.304 million ($1,150-1,665), based on grade. VAS is one of the expensive private schools in Ho Chi Minh City.
At present, the school is offering educational services to more than 8,500 students from kindergarten through 12th grade at eight campuses in Ho Chi Minh City, meanwhile, Aden will work with clients to design delicious, healthy, and customisable meals for onsite and catered food services. Recently, Aden signed a new contract with UK Academy in Ho Chi Minh City under which it will run the school’s cafeteria, serving up to 1,200 students, according to Aden’s website.