Vũ Thị Ý, a teacher at Xín Cái Elementary Semi-Boarding School for Ethnic Minorities in Xín Cái Commune in Hà Giang Province, visits her students' house to encourage them to go to school. — VNA/VNS Photos
HÀ GIANG — Teachers assigned to remote mountainous areas are no stranger to hardships. Many have to walk hours on dangerous and slippery roads to reach school and spend their own money on school supplies as students can’t afford to buy their own.
There’s no exception for female teachers. Despite the hardships, many still stick to teaching children in far-flung areas with the hope of bringing them a better life in the future.
Vũ Thị Ý was assigned to teach at an ethnic boarding school in Mèo Vạc District in the mountainous northern province of Hà Giang, shortly after she graduated from Hà Giang Pedagogical College in 1990.
Ý was the only child of seven siblings to study in higher education. She was the pride of the family. She wanted a job with good pay, so she could provide for her family.
Ý said she had many sleepless nights, thinking about the choices she should make while her mother and sisters just wanted her to stay at home.
“When I told my family about my choice, my mom even told me to get back to her if I found the new life and the new job too hard,” she said.
The first challenge for her was a road from Hà Giang Town to Mèo Vạc District. She spent two days in a car, suffering serious motion sickness due to steep and tricky traffic.
Ý had sleepless nights in the next days. She was not familiar with the new life. She was bitten by bugs and mosquitoes, causing swelling and itching all over the body.
But Ý had no time to think about it. She was busy teaching Vietnamese language and numbers for ethnic children and going to their house to persuade their parents to let them go to school.
Ý said that over the next 13 years, she was assigned to go to many remote and border areas to teach literacy classes for adults. Many did not want her to return when the class finished.
In 2010, Ý volunteered to teach at Xín Cái Elementary Semi-Boarding School for Ethnic Minorities in Xín Cái Commune.
It was a chilling winter that year. A thick fog hung around the whole day, and the cabbages in the school’s garden froze in the cold weather.
“Children couldn’t write as their hands were cold. They had no warm clothes. I asked for clothes, socks, boots, and then books, notebooks and pencils for them. I asked all the people I knew for things that could help them keep warm and study during winter, no matter how old or new they were,” she said.
Things were better when children went to class every day. Ý focused on finding new methods that helped students with different learning abilities to study effectively.
Ý has been recognized as a good teacher by the provincial Department of Education and Training. She has been awarded the title of Excellent Teacher by President Nguyễn Xuân Phúc this year.
Lê Thị Thanh, a teacher at Mèo Vạc Primary School, poses with her students.
Lê Thị Thanh has her own story about how she settled down in a disadvantaged area in Mèo Vạc District.
She started her job as a teacher in the district in 1988 and moved to many different communes to bring education to ethnic minority children.
When she and some other colleagues moved to Nậm Ban Commune, they had to live in a classroom, with no electricity or clean water. Students didn’t want to go to school, and none of them knew the native language to study.
Some teachers gave up and left. Thanh wanted to give up, but she told herself to stay and try a little bit more.
“Teaching first-grade students was quite hard. Many did not want to go to school. While I tried to keep one child sitting in class, another child would leave. There were days when I couldn't have any children in class because they followed their parents to the fields,” she said.
“I felt helpless. Many times I stood crying like a child in class,” she said.
There were days Thanh drove 30 kilometres, going to every student’s house to help them with their homework and encouraging them to study.
Her efforts were rewarded when her students improved and they expressed happiness at being able to learn.
In 1991, she was given the chance to return to her hometown, but Thanh decided to stay. This year marks the 33rd year Thanh has been living and teaching children in Mèo Vạc District.
Thanh said, apart from professional knowledge, the key qualities for any teacher in the mountainous areas are hard work, perseverance and love and compassion for ethnic children. — VNS