Every day 9-year-old Le Quang Binh (not his real name) spends his time taking care of two cows belonging to a neighbor. He takes them out to graze, washes them and cuts grass from rice fields for feed. He finishes his work after 6 p.m.
Binh, who looks thin and wan despite his suntanned face, catches birds and fish in the fields for fun and plays with three other child herders. The owner of the cows shouts at him and threatens to leave him to starve whenever he ignores the cows and accidentally lets them eat other people’s crops.
“I am paid six million dong (U.S. $286) a year to support my grandmother,” Binh said. He and his ailing grandmother, age 74, live in a small house in the central Thua Thien Hue province.
In 2012 when he was in second grade, this father died of HIV/AIDS and his Laotian-Vietnamese mother returned to her home nation and left him behind. He was left in the care of his grandparents and dropped out of school. This is all too common in Vietnam.
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