Art troupes and cultural houses in HCM City are offering summer courses in traditional Vietnamese music and theatre in an attempt to lure children away from online games and films on their Ipads and smart-phones.

"We believe music and theatre are an intrinsic part of the human spirit, and children cannot grow without knowledge of and love for the arts," said comedian and theatre director Hong Van, owner of the Hong Van Drama Troupe and Phu Nhuan Drama Troupe, two of the city's leading private troupes.

The Hong Van Drama Troupe offers drama training courses twice a week for children aged between seven and 13. The courses are taught by skilled actors such as Huu Chau, Minh Nhi, Quoc Thao, Cong Ninh and People's Artist Hong Van.

Tran Le, Director of the HCM City Cultural House for Children's Drama Troupe, said: "We hope children will be able to learn about the world, people and culture instead of just staying at home watching television and playing video games."

Le's troupe provides children and teenagers with performance courses every Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. The fees are about 1 million VND (50 USD) a month. Children from poor families receive training for free.

The courses provide basic training in music, dance, puppetry and circus skills.

Le said creating courses for children was difficult. "One reason is that we do not have enough money, while a quality programme should have many things like beautiful costumes," he said.

"However, we're tried our best to find suitable ways to pitch special courses offering both entertainment and education," he added.

Summer programmes offered by the HCM City General Science Library are also a good choice for children who love painting, cooking and chess.

These programmes, which are free and will close in early August, include many children from the rural districts of Cu Chi, Nha Be, Thu Duc, Can Gio and Hoc Mon.

Artist Hoang Ly Bach Tuyet, who runs a painting course for children aged between 4 and 15 years old at her home in District 3, said: "My course attracts around 80 students who love and need art. Some parents are not wealthy, but they still save money to send their kids to me."

Dr Do Hong Ngoc, of the HCM City Centre of Communication, Education and Health, said that many city kids were burying themselves in textbooks and homework during the longest holiday after the school year.

They have to take extra courses in mathematics, computer and English, under their parents' guidance.

"Education authorities must take the lead to encourage parents to give children more free time to enjoy their summer. Please cut back on their study load and hours, and tell our children to relax and do their favourite things," he said.-VNA