Viet Nam News
Mai Xuân Tùng
QUẢNG NINH — More than 10 years of working closely with primary school children in the remote communes of the Vân Đồn island district, northern coastal Quảng Ninh Province, have forged many unforgettable memories for teachers Nguyễn Thị Hợi and Lưu Thế Sơn.
The teachers are known as "angels" by local students. Both have devoted their lives to bringing knowledge to poor children via teaching and kindheartedness, despite abundant hardships and inconveniences in their lives.
Nguyễn Thị Hợi
During nearly 30 years of her career, Hợi, 50, said the move to Bản Sen School was one of her most difficult decisions, but she doesn’t regret it now.
She still remembers the first day she reached the island ten years ago.
“It took several hours sailing, then three hours walking on mountain paths through forests to reach the school. No electricity, no purified water. No market, so no food to purchase,” said Hợi. "My first impression was all bad at the time."
The living conditions were disappointing. And the weather there was also very severe, with extremely low winter temperatures and muggy, high humidity summers.
She felt even worse when she found the school had a shortage of teaching essentials, such as tables, chairs, lights, books and pens for pupils.
“A low quality of infrastructure and a lack of teaching essentials had hindered all teaching efforts at the school,” the teacher said.
The first thing that came to her mind was that she should not have accepted the offer, Hợi said.
“At first, I was miserable. The only thing in my mind was to find a way back to my home inland,” said Hợi.
For the first several days she was shocked and disappointed. All doors seemed closed to her. But she tried to stand on the teaching stage smiling all the time.
Hợi later found people around her all were suffering from the same things.
“I do not know how I could have survived here for more than ten years without so many kind friends who are also my colleagues, and especially my pupils,” Hợi said.
“How could I quit the job when my pupils and friends needed me? They are the only happiness that could inspire me to overcome all difficulties."
“Imagine a little six-year-old child walking barefoot over several kilometres of forest and rocky paths to attend my class. Just looking at his or her bright open eyes, all hardship faded away,” said Hợi.
To survive such circumstances, Hợi and the other teachers rearranged their lives. It was hard to buy food since the market was very far from their houses. So they planted rice and vegetables, gardened and raised cattle for food.
They organised groups to visit each pupil’s home and encourage parents to let their children go to school.
Hợi set up special classes for outstanding pupils and encouraged them to take part in all provincial contests.
She initiated a project to attract tourists to the commune because the natural beauty and remoteness of the locale showed promise for developing future tourism. Last year her project was recognised by district authorities who promised to put it into effect when they develop a master plan for tourism development.
The Principle of the Bản Sen Primary School, Hoàng Thúy Phương, praised her efforts and contributions to local education and training.
"Her activities and creativity have inspired many other teachers to come work in remote areas," he said.
In addition to compulsory subjects, Hợi organised lessons for childen to develop their living skills. Topics covered include how to find shelter during storms, how to get away from cruel wild animals, and how to survive drowning, the principle said.
"Hợi was also among the very first teachers to use an Informatics curriculum in teaching," said Phương.
Lưu Thế Sơn
Meanwhile, teacher Lưu Thế Sơn, who spent 14 years teaching at the remote island Ngọc Vừng Primary School, has also won the respect of his pupils and their parents for his enthusiastic devotion to teaching poor children.
Sơn decided to teach at an island school about 100 miles away from his hometown inland, vowing to bring more knowlege to poor children in underprivileged areas of the district.
The teacher said pupils’ desire to learn helped him overcome all hardships to continue his career in unimaginably miserable conditions.
"The pupils’ desire to study was the only thing that inspired me to do everything to teach them, despite so many inconveniences,” Sơn confided.
Sơn also faced many difficulties in his remote location.
“I changed accommodation seven times to stabilise my teaching. And I tried more than three times to convince my wife, who used to have a good job inland, to quit her work to come with me to Ngọc Vừng Commune,” said Sơn.
With very low pay for teaching at the school, Sơn opened a private bicycle repair shop to support his teaching career.
In addition to teaching Literature and Geography, Sơn has engaged in teaching other subjects, including Gymnastics and Sports. His school has also selected him to manage and tutor its athletics to compete in provincial contests. — VNS