Life Life

10/12/2021 - 09:18

Never too late to learn

In the highland area of Nam Dong (a mountainous district 50 km southwest of Hue city) today, there are still adult literacy classes in the villages and hamlets. For many Co Tu people, even those who have already been grandmother, it is never too late to learn.

Literacy classes for ethnic minorities in Nam Dong

Be literate to avoid… rolling fingerprints

Finally, Mrs. Ho Thi Duoi in hamlet 2, Thuong Nhat commune (Nam Dong) also obtained Illiteracy eradication and education universalization certificate. Mrs. Duoi is famous for her hard work and study. Every day, from early morning, Mrs. Duoi had to go to the fields to work all day, in the evening, after dinner, she crossed the hill to go to the classroom.

Being busy and facing various difficulties, but few people know that, for the past 5 years, Mrs. Duoi has never missed a single class, regardless of rain or shine (!).

Mrs. Duoi’s schooling story reminds us of the classes after the liberation day that were opened everywhere from lowland to highland. The difference is, at that time, it was just some intensive classes which lasted for a few months for the people who were illiterate to learn to read or do math.

Now, the illiteracy eradication and education universalization class that Mrs. Duoi attends lasts up to 5 years with a rigorously designed curriculum consisting of 2 levels. After reading and writing fluently and doing basic arithmetic within 3 years, they have to continue for 2 more years to complete level II, as education continues after literacy.

Working hard with the words 

The certificate of illiteracy eradication and education universalization obtained by Mrs. Duoi is equivalent to a primary school diploma. In the past, during the French colonial period, the number of people with primary school degrees could only be counted with the fingers of one hand in a deltacommune. The owner was able to use it to get a job.

And recently, after doing a small interview in Nam Dong, I received various practical answers: such as learning to read to avoid rolling fingerprints for administrative papers, to write the names their parents gave them, to sing karaoke, to use smartphones… Besides learning to acquire knowledge, there is theneed to be intellectual equal to other people in the community, wanting not to be left behind, especially… not being looked down by others.

Fairly hard journey 

The raging COVID-19 pandemic could not prevent the literacy classes in Nam Dong from being opened. When meeting us, Mr. Tran Van Phuc - Director of Nam Dong Vocational Education - Continuing Education Center immediately proudly shared that the school year 2020 - 2021 has been successful with 40 students completing the level I program and 12 students completed the level II program. The center is opening and running 7 classes of literacy and continuing education after literacy with 71 students.

We had the opportunity to visit some literacy classes in Thuong Nhat and Huong Huu (Nam Dong). The classes are mainly located in Rong house (community cultural houses), which are quite spacious, fully equipped with learning facilities from desks and chairs to cool fans and adequate lighting.

Regularly, classes start at 7:30 p.m. and end at 10 p.m. Students are mainly mothers and grandmothers. Their journey to the class was really hard as many people were miles away from the classroom.

Going to class was difficult as they have to cross the hill and the ravine in the dark. They had to bring their children along, if the children were too small, they had to carry them to go to class together. Itwas also not easy as the problem of money and rice remained, then the lack of awareness and also delicate issues, as the husband was ... jealous when they go to school!

Following mom to school

Even in the lessons, there are many both amused and annoyed stories. For example, when the class was going on, there was the sound of children crying; or there was a time when students suddenly quarreled loudly, not about studying but about business, external relations... in ethnic languages, making the teachers and students confused.

In Mr. To Chinh's vehicle, who has 32 years of experience in teaching literacy, there always has all kinds of things, pens, notebooks,…in case any student forgot to bring or did not have them; even food and sweets which Mr. Chinh said that those were for... party to reduce stress, to create a learning atmosphere. Ethnic women are narcissistic, so teachers must know how to praise, coax, and encouragethem. However, the teacher To Chinh was surprised; he could not understand why there were so few men and young people in the literacy classes!

The illiteracy eradication class still faces many difficulties. Students often forget words. Many people forgot what they have just learnt in a minute. They are experienced with living skills, however, slow in learning, not used to general thinking, so their progress is slow.

 “Students are from ethnic minorities, so the explanation must be slow. If teachers do not know how to motivate, understand psychology and know their native language, it will be very difficult to convey the knowledge. If students find the class uninteresting, they will drop out of it, making it even more difficult to gather students.” Mr. Chinh said.

We met the teacher Ho Xuan Pin. In this year 2021, having just finished 2 classes for illiteracy eradication in hamlet 5 and village 6, Mr. Pin continues with the illiteracy eradication class in hamlet 7, Huong Huu commune. Not only having solid expertise and dedication to his students, the advantage of being a Co Tu ethnic group helps Mr. Pin to connect teachers in delta areas with officials and students in the highland, to understand and easily communicate with students.

Mr. Pin shared, they were eager to learn but they were still afraid, passive, and also need encouragement. And in case students don't understand the meaning, I use Co Tu language to explain. For example, the word "parallel" is difficult to explain in Vietnamese, but when translated into Co Tu language, they understand it right away.

Being confident when being literate

Recently at the beginning of October 2022, Nam Dong Vocational Education - Continuing Education Center held a ceremony to launch the Lifelong Learning Responsive Week 2021 combining the closing ceremony of grade 5 program (level II) and the opening ceremony of the 1st grade program (level I). Looking at the women in Co Tu ethnic costumes, stepped up to receive certificates for students completing the level II study program, I felt like sharing the joy with them. 

It is hard to describe that feeling at the age of 60, Mrs. Vuong Thi Toc (village 5, Huong Huu commune) obtained a primary school degree certificate after 5 years of persistently going to class, so that she could read messages, write letters and doing calculation for her business.

Having known the words, the ladies are confident. We heard about (who would like to remain anonymous) the wife of a district leader who was previously illiterate, so the couple was afraid tocommunicate. Now, the wife has completed the continuing education class; after being literate, being able to read, write fluently, do calculations smoothly, she feels very confident, completely got changed, as she left all the inferiority behind.

Ms. Vuong Thi Mo Loc (village 5), was very happy that when she first sent a text message from her phone to her relatives, she immediately informed Mr. Ho Van Pin. Meeting with us, the teacher To Chinh excitedly said that after graduating, Ms. Ho Thi To (60 years old) from hamlet 2, Thuong Nhat commune joined the Executive Committee of the Youth Volunteer Association. And Mrs. Ho Thi Dim (52 years old) participated in women's work in the village, opening a coffee shop and organizing many business services.

Tonight, when listening to the sound of the rain on the porch, I suddenly recalled the evening more than a year ago. That time, when we parted from the literacy class in a high area in Nam Dong when it was late at night, we seemed to hear the sound of studying in our ears. Their voices were so loud and clear, the words were spelled with joy and we loved it a lot.

Thinking about their way back home, with many directions when the night was blanketing the road and the light was flamboyant, far away, we realized that the learning journey of Co Tu ethnic group would never be too late.

Story and photos: HUE THU – MINH TAM

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