|The opening ceremony at a school in remote Tắk Pổ Village, Nam Trà My District, Quảng Nam Province. — Photo coutersy from the teacher's Facebook Mít Pé
Photos of a simple school opening ceremony in the remote Tắk Pổ Village in the mountainous Nam Trà My District of the central province of Quảng Nam went viral in recent days
The ceremony was decorated with nothing more than a national flag and paper flowers. Some of the children didn't have shoes or uniforms, while the teacher wore the traditional áo dài but with slippers. Six of the children were squatting as the school didn't have enough wooden benches. The sight of two teachers, 34 children and a village head touched heart across the country.
The images completely stole the show from photos of other opening ceremonies shared in the media, with kids wearing neat new shirts, colourful decorations everywhere and top national leaders in attendance.
The ceremony was also in stark contrast to flamboyant city schools on opening days, with parents driving their children in cars and motorbikes, with flowers and red carpets spread out.
Here, in a remote school 10 kilometres from the nearest town, hard to reach by any vehicle, the children, mostly Xơ Đăng ethnic people, look happy and eager for the new school year, unlike the tired and yawning city children.
In Tắk Pổ, despite the lack of facilities, netizens saw only laughs and glittering eyes of children to their teachers, who sometimes have to walk for two hours just to get to the school.
The difficulties of remote schools like Tắk Pổ, sadly, are common in many mountainous and remote areas. Schools in places I have visited like Hà Giang, Điện Biên, Sơn La, Lai Châu, Nghệ An and Quảng Trị provinces share similar stories. The buildings are wooden houses with corrugated iron roofs, earthen yards and no air conditioners, no computers and no frills. Remote locations and poor facilities are common problems. The children, mostly ethnic minorities, are limited in number, with the classes normally a mix of different grades. Many of them have to walk hours to get to school. Lunches at school are sometimes just rice mixed with instant noodles.
Visiting such schools shows how hard it is to access education for children in remote areas, how hard it is for teachers to convince parents to let their children keep going to school. The teachers in such remote areas must love their jobs so much to have enough patience and energy to keep teaching in such places.
In recent years, Việt Nam has gained lots of achievements in education. The Government has increased funding for the education sector and allocates at least 20 per cent of the State budget to education. The Government has also implemented policies to improve the quality of education, especially in rural and remote areas. At a session of the ongoing 37th session of the National Assembly Standing Committee earlier this week, a report on policies and laws focusing on poverty reduction in ethnic minority and mountainous areas in 2012-18 showed that in the past years, there had been a clear change in infrastructure with about 25,000 works invested in and built in underprivileged communes and villages, ethnic minority and mountainous areas.
But there obviously remains a huge gap between remote mountainous areas compared to urban areas, especially in terms of teacher shortages and living standards for teachers. Does this mean the policies ignore education in such areas? Should National Assembly deputies and Government officials find why the policies and funding cannot help poor and unequipped schools like in Tắk Pổ?
The photos of the teachers and students in Tắk Pổ reminds us that there is still a lot we need to do, a lot of efforts needed to improve the lives of teachers in remote areas and the quality of education in such places. In mountainous, inaccessible and remote areas, it is not easy to eradicate poverty and improve school facilities, not to mention teaching the children foreign languages or life skills. But, the light in the eyes of the teachers and the students in Tắk Pổ, the love, the care, the efforts over there shows that education can change the future for these children.
So let’s take action, and support teachers and invest in schools, because the children in Tắk Pổ deserve it just as much as those in Hà Nội. VNS