|Wardens and teacher Chu Thị Thu in a class. — Photo cand.com.vn|
SƠN LA — In Yên Hạ Prison, a special class is spearheaded by a young teacher, Chu Thi Thu. Her goal is to provide inmates with the ability to read and write.
The "students" here are very diverse, with the youngest aged 20, and the oldest close to 60.
Born to a poor family in Đắk Nông, Hồ Bảo Vân did not get to go to school like kids his age. Instead, he ran away from home.
When Vân committed a crime and was sentenced to life imprisonment, he did not know how to read. One day, he signed up for the literacy class at the prison.
From a very shaky start in learning, after months of hard work, Vân can now write a letter to his mother at home, an achievement that he could not have thought of years earlier.
"My life had been on a bad course, but my luck came when the class was opened," said Vân.
"Although I'm almost 30, the wardens here and the teachers helped me a lot by teaching me, and now that I know how to read and write, I see that my life has opened up a lot," Vân added.
From a life sentence, Vân's sentence has been reduced to a term imprisonment.
Another inmate, Sùng A Chứ, was in prison for illegal possession of drugs, and has served four years at Yên Hạ Prison. Although he has been hard at work at the literacy class, it took Chứ almost a minute to write the word "lễ phép" (politeness).
"I have a family at home, with four kids. I was goaded into a bad path of a criminal, and I regret it very much," said Chứ.
Having studied hard to write a letter back home, Chứ said, "I want to have a job and learn the language, so that I can teach my children and lead them away from evil."
Thu, the teacher of the literacy class, said, "It was said that the inmates here are so old but they can't even write their own names."
Remembering her first days at the class, Thu said that although her pedagogic skills are well-trained, the students are so different that it caused some trouble for the young teacher.
"The hardest part is to change the mindset of the inmates, and clear them of the pressures and inspire them to study," said Thu.
"A lack of knowledge can lead people astray, and most people have not been aware of the importance of study. It is our job to advise the inmates to follow the path of study," Thu added.
"To persuade the inmates to join the class was hard, to keep them with us is not easy. Many are old and have disabilities, some have problems studying, some lack perseverance," Thu said. "Every single time that happens, it is my duty to show them how to read and write and encourage them. And the happiness and passion I saw in the inmates' eyes gave me strength to carry on in this class."
The literacy class has been organised at Yên Hạ Prison from 2011. Although the facilities are not adequate, the wardens have been hard at work contributing to the class.
"As many as 80 per cent of the inmates here at the prison are of ethnic minorities, and the number of illiterate prisoners here is high," said Colonel Nguyễn Anh Đức, Deputy Chief Warden at Yên Hạ Prison. "We collaborated with the Phú Yên Department of Education and Training to organise literacy classes for inmates."
Until now, over 700 inmates have joined the class, and are able to pass the basic literacy exam. There are four classes organised weekly, each with 35 students, and two teachers, Captain Chử Thị Hằng and teacher Chu Thị Thu.
"We are glad that many inmates after the class even expressed the desire to study further. Hồ Bảo Vân's mother, who received the letter that he wrote by himself, even called us in appreciation," said Đức.
"In contrast to their edgy appearance, the inmates' way of expressing their love is truthful," said Thu. "Whenever I read the letters that they wrote to their family back home, I felt emotional and wept. I felt that my efforts have contributed in opening a new path for them, a path towards good, towards knowledge." — VNS