Meaningful: For Kieu Thi Anh Thuyet, helping the students study every day is the most precious gift that life has given her. — Photo doisongphapluat.com
A woman in Vinh Phuc Province with dwarfism has faced discrimination all her life, but she made her own opportunities when she started teaching free classes for struggling students. Minh Trang and Nguyen Thao report.
Being just 1.1m tall, anyone will find it difficult to lead a normal life, but Kieu Thi Anh Thuyet, from the northern province of Vinh Phuc, has done just that.
For over 10 years, Thuyet, also known as "small teacher" has scripted a fairy tale while organising a free class for poor children in her homeland.
Every Saturday and Sunday, the students eagerly go to Thuyet's class which is also her family's simple wooden house in Cao Phong commune, Song Lo District to listen to her unique lectures.
Thuyet, 34, is the youngest in a family of eight brothers and sisters, but she is at a disadvantage when compared with them because of her congenital dwarfism. While her friends gradually grew bigger and taller, she stopped growing when she reached 1.1m. Every day when Thuyet went to school, she developed an inferiority complex about her situation.
She began to think she was useless, but whenever she saw other unfortunate humans, she attempted to live her life well and tried to become a more useful person.
"I am luckier than most people. Although the creator did not give me a body like normal people, it gave me a happy family." Thuyet said.
With the determination to change her life by way of education, she was always among the top in the class notching up credible achievements.
During three years of high school, on the nearly 10km road, walking to school despite the bad weather, she never gave up on her dream to enter a university.
But her dreams did not come true in the absence of half a point in the aggregate.
Overcome by sadness at her failure, Thuyet decided to apply again to the Vinh Phuc School of Culture and Art in the hope of finding a stable job.
After graduating with good grades, she happily returned home to write out her job application. The difficulties, however, remained. She applied for work in numerous schools, but was rejected by them all because of her height.
"After finishing my studies, I did not get a job. Moreover, I was not confident about my body to become a teacher, so I decided to stay at home with my parents," Thuyet said.
In 2005, she found her siblings' children were poor in academics and suggested to the family that she could tutor them because she had a lot of free time and wanted to do something useful.
Her class finally opened at her own small house with 7 students. Unlike in school, her class has no chalk and black board, as she can only go to the desk of each student.
The children who come there to learn are of different ages and from varying circumstances. Because of those differences, her lectures and assignments are not the same for all. Thuyet reviews the lessons of the weak students which they have done in school. Those who are good are taught by her to solve the advanced exercises.
Her teaching philosophy is to always make them comfortable. The openness between a teacher and student makes them understand the lessons faster.
"Initially, when teaching them, I was like a fish out of water. It was difficult for me to help them acquire knowledge because I did not specialise in pedagogy and lacked teaching skills."
Therefore, she usually notes down anything she finds useful, watches sample teaching lessons on the Internet as well as gains experience from her own classes.
She used to feel worried that the students would not obey her and ridicule her appearance, but all of them were very docile and obedient.
She said that the children living in the countryside, lack parental upbringing and care, so she teaches them not only knowledge but also morals and lifestyle.
After some time, seeing the progress of the children, some of other poor people in the village decided to take their children to Thuyet's class. The number of students gradually grew, and sometimes reached 30. At the moment, there are nearly 20 children between the ages of 8 and 12 in her class.
The special thing is though she does not have a job and is still dependent on her old parents, the students who attend her classes do not have to pay any fees.
"This is because they are too poor, but are fond of studying. Moreover, I teach them as a passion to satisfy my unfinished dream," Thuyet said.
Her eyes brighten when told that she has a few benefactors who are building a library in her village for students to access and enhance knowledge as well as read books freely.
Thanks to her, many students with weak learning skills matured into better students at school and attended many district and provincial contests. Khong Thi Phuong Ly, grade 4, won the first prize in the district excellent student competition, and Kieu Manh Hoang, grade 5, won the third one in the provincial excellent student contest.
She has no children, but her small house is always full of laughter of studious children whom she loves and teaches like her own. For her, watching them grow and helping them study every day are the most precious gift that life has given her. — VNS