Few of the nearly 250 students of La Pan Tan Secondary School in the remote Mu Cang Chai district in the northern province of Yen Bai knew anything about computers or even connecting to the internet until a computing class was recently held.

Principal Pham Tien Quang said that, before this year, the school couldn't even afford a computer.

Now it has a newly built classroom with six computer terminals connecting to internet services sponsored by the Vietnam Posts and Communications Group (VNPT) and Ho Chi Minh Communist Youth Union, under a programme to facilitate internet access in the nation's 62 poorest districts.

"The school has plans to offer computing courses to the community as well as its own students," Quang said, noting that six teachers with computing competence have been appointed to teach the classes.

Quang said that the facilities would bring access to up to 1,000 local young people.

Eighth-grader Giang A Thanh said that she was so excited to be able to explore the computer. The computer looked like a TV set but could make letters appear on the screen, she said.

Seventh-grader Ly Thi Nung said that her teacher told her that there was a lot of useful information on the internet to help her in her studies as well as her parents' farming. It was great to touch the keyboard and the mouse and it made her want to learn how to use them, she said.

VNPT deputy director Phan Hoang Duc said the VNPT wil ensure the quality of internet service and that the facility will help locals improve the quality of their life. Internet users in the classroom will be able to join in e-learning courses provided on VNPT's website kienthucviet.vn free of charge, he added, including information on healthcare and agricultural promotion.

Youth Union secretary Nguyen Dac Vinh said that the locality will play an important role in keeping the classroom operating smoothly, and he urged the school and local organisations like the Youth Union to manage the facility to avoid its abuse for online gaming instead of studying.

Earlier this month, computing classes begain in schools in 40 other districts across the country, including in Dakrong in the central province of Quang Tri and the town of Thong Nong in the northern province of Cao Bang./.