Phạm Thị Hồng teaches her students with disabilities at her centre in Pleiku City, the Central Highlands province of Gia Lai.—VNA/VNS Photo Quang Thái
GIA LAI — Phạm Thị Hồng of Pleiku City, the Central Highlands province of Gia Lai, has run a teaching centre for disabled children in a rented house at No 57, Trần Nhật Duật Street for more than 20 years.
Hồng, 61, is now a teacher of 45 disabled children in her centre.
“There are 15 children with Down syndrome, 15 children who are deaf and dumb, and 10 autistic children and children with mental retardation,” she added.
Some parents picked up their children daily, some parents picked up their children weekly and two homeless children have stayed at the centre with Hồng for eight years, she added.
Yến Nhi, a 14-year-old deaf and dumb female student who has learned at the centre since she was four, writes that her dream is to become a teacher to show children like her how to write as Hồng did.
Diệu Hà, 12, a girl with autism, who was selected as the main dancer of the centre’s ongoing party said: “My dream is to become a dancer in the future.”
Phương Thảo, 16, who has mental retardation, has lived with Hồng for eight years. She can now help Hồng – the woman she calls "mother", to cook and take care of smaller children at the centre.
Trần Thị Xưa, of the province’s Chư Prông District, who sends a child to the centre, said the children have started to learn how to write, read and speak at the centre.
Devoted teacher, hard job
Hồng, who was born in the coastal central province of Quảng Nam, graduated from a local college of early childhood education in 1980 and became a pre-school teacher.
Hồng was determined to become a teacher of children with disabilities when she was 26 after she watched a music performance of children with disabilities.
“I felt touched and really wanted to spend the rest of my life teaching children with disabilities,” she said.
Then she moved to HCM City a year later despite her parents’ strong opposition.
“They did not want me to become a teacher of disabilities at that time because they worried that it would be a very hard job for me,” she said.
“But I told them I still want to do the job before I left for HCM City,” she said.
Hồng took many teaching courses to improve her skills to teach children with disabilities in HCM City’s schools and centres for children with disabilities for years.
In 1999, she learned there was no centre to teach children with disabilities in the Central Highlands, so she knew where she needed to set up the centre.
Hồng said initially, she borrowed a place belonging to a local church in Pleiku City to teach her students.
There were only two students at that time, she said.
At first, many parents did not believe that she could teach their children to write, read or make simple calculations.
However, after seeing the success of the first students, the parents believed in her.
She had to move to a new place, the rented house at No 57, Trần Nhật Duật Street, to accommodate all the new students.
“Teaching a normal child is hard and teaching a child with a disability is much harder,” she said.
“I have to apply different teaching methods for each child,” she added.
“And patience is the most important thing when you teach a child with a disability,” she said.
Many teachers have come to the centre to help Hồng but most quit due to the difficulty of the work. Only one female teacher named Nguyễn Thị Ngọc Lan, 56, of the city, still works with Hồng.
Although the work was hard, Hồng said she never thought of stopping.
“All the tiredness will disappear when I see the children’s smiles,” she said.
That was the motivation for her to do her work for more than 20 years, she said.
“My dream is to help the children with disabilities to live as happy a life as other children,” she said. — VNS