|Hoàng Thị Thưu guides Chứt ethnic minority students to write. She is a teacher at Hương Liên Primary School in Hương Khê District in central Hà Tĩnh Province. She VNA/VNS Photo Hoàng Ngà|
HÀ TĨNH — Hoàng Thị Thưu, a teacher at a primary school in a disadvantaged area in central Hà Tĩnh Province, spent the summer of 2016 studying the Chứt ethnic language to get to know her students better.
Early that year, Thưu had been assigned a class of soley Chứt ethnic minority students.
Despite eight years of work experience at Hương Liên Primary School in Hương Khê District, Thưu was worried.
The Chứt students couldn't speak Vietnamese and were at different academic levels and ages. It was a recipe for disaster.
For three months of summer, Thưu rode her motorbike to Rào Tre Village to practise the Chứt language, get acquainted with the villagers and her future students, and encourage the students to come to school after the summer.
After talks, the teacher found that poverty was not the biggest challenge stopping children from attending school.
"A sense of belonging at school is key. Most Chứt children are shy and have difficulties fitting in with other students, so when they go to school, they usually feel left behind," she said.
It took the teacher two months to help these students get acquainted with the school. To improve their confidence and build the habit of going to school, Thưu arrived at the village early to take students to school on cold and rainy days.
With the help from Bản Giàng border soldiers, Thưu could get more students to class.
After six years, the class has helped many Chứt students improve their knowledge and continue to study at higher levels.
Thưu graduated from an accelerated teacher training course in 1998 and was assigned to work at Hương Liên Primary School later.
The school was located in Hương Liên Commune, a remote area of Hương Khê District. There were five villages in the commune, one of which was the living place of 2,414 Chứt ethnic minorities.
The majority of Chứt people lived in poverty and depended on forestry and farming. Education, as a result, was the last thing people could think of when they wanted to improve their life.
To ensure the right to study for Chứt ethnic children, Hà Tĩnh Province's Department of Education set up a class for Chứt students at Hương Liên Primary School in 2015. Thưu was the first teacher to take responsibility for the special class.
Thưu said developing a love for teachers and classmates among students would help them get motivated in school.
She and other teachers prepare a box of sticky rice for students before the class, as most go to school with an empty bellies.
The students attend school regularly with the teachers' love, perseverance, and enthusiasm. As a result, many can read and write and do maths well, and some show good academic performance.
Sharing her methods to teach the social class, Thưu said: "The compound class always has fewer students than other classes. Therefore, the teacher has more time to tutor students."
She usually divides the students into two groups. The students will sit back to back, and the teacher will use two different blackboards to teach them.
The first group will practice reading and writing while the second will learn maths.
After one or two years of studying, students who pass the test move on to learn with students of their age.
Recalling her years of teaching Chứt students, Thưu said she would never forget an 11-year-old girl with a disability.
She stood at the school's gate and refused to enter, fearing being ridiculed.
Undeterred, Thưu found ways to encourage her and help her overcome her fear. After years of studying at the school, the girl is now a seventh-grade student at the boarding school for ethnic minorities in Hương Khê District.
This May, a group from the Ministry of Education and Training's Department of Primary Education and the provincial education department came and checked the quality of the class.
All students are standard and have been moved to study with other fellow students since this academic year.
Hồ Thị Oanh, a student of class 4A1, said: "This is the first year I have joined to study with other students at my age. I am thrilled because I feel I fit well in the new class. I am grateful to my teacher for supporting me and making me more confident."
The class has completed its mission, but Thưu never stops working for Chứt students.
She has built a Chứt – Vietnamese language book with common words to help other teachers understand their students more and make teaching and learning easier. — VNS