Saturday, October 22 2016


Travelling far to bridge an education gap

Update: June, 29/2015 - 15:18
Hungry for improvement: Many children in the mountainous districts of Nghe An Province make do with very basic living and learning conditions. A committed teacher's work might help change their future of the better. — VNA/VNS Photo Quy Trung\

One man's commitment and determination to educate children of disadvantaged communities has made him the "most indispensable man" in a remote village that he has made his home. Pham Ngan reports.

Teacher Lo Van Lan has lived in Cam Muon 2 Commune, one of Que Phong District's most isolated communes in the central province of Nghe An, for 10 years.

Here, he brings knowledge to the children of the Kho Mu ethnic people in Huoi May Village.

Lan was born in 1962 and graduated from the Tan Ky Mountainous Pedagogy High School in Nghe An in 1979. A Thai ethnic man and native of Cam Muon Commune, he returned to his home village with a desire to help children become literate.

Armed with more than 34 years of teaching experience, Lan has travelled to almost all the remote, isolated villages in the district.

For more than half of that period, he worked for the Cam Muon 2 Primary School and was based in Huoi May Village.

The village is no ordinary residential area. It is populated solely by the Kho Mu, who live near the Pu Huong primeval forest.

The only way to arrive in the area is to walk through the forest for several hours.

"I was sent to teach in Huoi May for the first time in 1986. I was apprehensive because reaching the village required climbing mountains and passing through forests for half a day, and the classroom was only a temporary structure," Lan recalled.

"The house was divided into two parts: half was for the classroom, and the rest was the teacher's residence. All the walls were made of bamboo wattle, so it was very cold during wintry nights.

"The Kho Mu villagers were penniless; their houses were just ramshackle cottages. Bamboo shoots were eaten for the daily meal, without even salt for flavour. The children lacked clothes, pens and books. Since the villagers were so poor, it was hard to talk about their children's education," he recalled.

During the first three years, along with encouraging the children to go to school, Lan also guided the local people on changing their lifestyle.

He visited each family and spoke to each person, focusing his attention on each child to motivate them to attend his class.

As the locals lacked everything, Lan would walk back through the forest to get these supplies from the school or use his own money to buy each notebook, textbook and pencil for his students.

Educator: Teacher Lo Van Lan. — Photo

Most of the village's children now attend his class.

In accordance with the school's rules, in 1989, after completing three years of obligatory work in the remote village, Lan was entitled to work in the main school, which had better living conditions.

However, the villagers had become a "second family" to Lan, so in 2004, he volunteered to return to work in the village.

Returning to his old class, he noticed that things had not changed much. His old students were still stuck in the trap of poverty, child labour and lack of education.

Based on his previous experience, Lan continued to visit each family to speak with the adults. He studied the circumstances of each family to better understand them and find ways to help their children attend school.

Just as he had done before, Lan shared his rice, spent his own salary to buy books and clothes for the children and saved his medicines to help those who fell ill.

Often, the villagers would travel to far-off fields in the mountains, which needed cultivation, so they were away from home for weeks. During this time, Lan would visit their children and prepare their meals, so the children would have the right conditions for attending school.

As the makeshift classroom was too dangerous, the teacher mobilised the villagers to contribute labour and materials to upgrade it.

Seeing Lan's enthusiasm, the villagers extended their cooperation. Many of the households sold their cattle, pigs and chickens to donate money for building a more spacious classroom for the teacher and his students.

Time passed, and again, his three-year term came to an end, in the academic year 2009-10.

When the locals were informed that another teacher would replace Lan, they met with the communal authorities to ask whether Lan could stay.

The villagers said, "If teacher Lan stops working here, our children will not go to school!"

After several nights of deliberation, Lan considered whether the next teacher could maintain education standards for the local children. Perhaps the children would fall behind in their education again. So once again, Lan decided to stay in the village, and he works there to this day.

The villagers were thrilled by his decision.

Village elder Moong Van Toan said, "Now teacher Lan has really become the most indispensable man of our village. Our children have grown in knowledge thanks to him. We are so grateful to him!" — VNS

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