|Community service: Ha LeE2n checks the computers before his students arrive for the class. — VNS Photo Nguyen Dung
A young man from the Chil ethnic minority has dedicated himself to shepherding his community into the digital age by providing free computer lessons for children. Nguyen Dung and Trung Hieu report.
Every day, when the sun sets behind the mountain, Kara Jan Ha Len, 28, a young man belonging to the ethnic Chil community, who lives in Da Sar Commune of Lac Duong District, begins teaching computer skills to children in the village, comprised of Chil people in Lam Dong Province in Tay Nguyen (the Central Highlands).
The class has been held for three days a week during the last seven years.
In the evening, after he returns from the company where he works, Ha Len quickly switches on his computers to prepare for the practice sessions.
In the twilight, dozens of students eagerly arrive at the house of "teacher Len" to learn computer skills.
When all the students have taken a seat, Len guides them while they practise Microsoft Excel skills.
"I was never familiar with academics so before starting this class, I taught computer skills at an information technology centre in Da Lat City where I learnt how to lecture and impart knowledge.
"Then I started this class at home, to impart that knowledge to students in my village," he said.
His class started in 2007 following an unexpected development.
That year, while studying at the Da Lat High School of Engineering (now the College of Da Lat), Len enrolled in a computer class for free. Upon completion of the class and acquiring certificates A and B, he started helping his teachers tutor computer skills for street children in Da Lat.
During the time he visited home, Len noticed that people in his village, especially the students, did not possess any computer skills.
It was then that he decided to borrow some computer sets from his teachers to teach the children in the village.
Four desktop computers were brought to the village. Initially, the villagers were curious, but shook their heads and left, assuming that learning to use a computer would cost them a lot of money.
"For the first class, I had to go to each family and talk to the parents in person. I told them that I was offering training, and the only thing they had to do was to allow their children to attend my class.
"Finally, my first computer class received 10 students," he recalled.
The Chil is a local sect of the Co Ho ethnic people. The latest general census showed that there are more than 18,000 Chil people in Viet Nam. Earlier, they lived in the mountainous area of the Lang Biang Highland. As they had lived as nomads, they gradually moved southwards to the northern and north eastern parts of Da Lat City. At present, they live in the districts of Duc Trong, Lam Ha, Lac Duong and Don Duong, and suburban areas of Da Lat City.
Upon completion of the first course after three months, most of his students gained a computing certificate for level A.
Recognising that his class was effective, a French charity organisation equipped it with some more computers and provided a small amount of money every month to help Len maintain the class.
When the next course commenced, many parents let their children join the class.
"During the recent years, my class always had more than 20 students. Since the absorption capacity of the local students is a little weak, and many of them have only had access to a computer for the first time in life, I divided them into different levels. Each class is divided into two shifts, beginning at 5.30pm and ending at 8.30pm."
Each class lasts about six months, after which Len takes his students to the resort city of Da Lat to sit for examination for the A-level certificate.
On average, Len holds two classes each year with 40 students enrolled. Hundreds of students in the village now have computer skills thanks to his special classes.
Currently, even though he is married and has a child, and also works at a company, Len still maintains his regular classes.
To do that, along with his own efforts, Len has received great encouragement from his wife, who is also his "colleague".
"I see my husband teaching computer skills as a meaningful job, so over the past one year I too have started a free English class for children in the village," said his wife, Touneh Diem My.
"Now we have a child so my husband and I do the teaching time in the evenings so we can save some free time to care for our child."
With contributions from Kara Jan Ha Len during the past years, Lac Duong District and Da Sar Commune have repeatedly praised and awarded certificates of merit to him, to encourage him to continue with his contribution to the village, which is bringing knowledge to this remote area.
Len said: "I do not think that I will stop teaching computer skills to children. I just wish all of them acquire information technology skills, so that when they find a job in the future, they find these skills very useful." — VNS