|Le Huu Trung teaches poor students during an evening class in the meeting hall on the Han River border post in Da Nang. — VNS Photo Cong Thanh
DA NANG (VNS)— Two years ago, 18 year old Phan Thi Muon from Thuan Phuoc Ward in Da Nang did not know how to read or write because her parents did not have enough money to send her to school.
Muon's parents, who moved from Thua Thien-Hue Province in the late 1990s, made a living from doing odd jobs around the central city.
In late 2011, they registered to join a training course for poor people organised by the central city's border guard commander and the Department of Education and Training.
The night class, which was held in a meeting hall next to the Han River border crossing post, drew the participation of 11 underprivileged students who studied under the tuition of five soldiers.
The soldiers were usually busy with their duties during the daytime, so the classes were held three evenings a week.
Most of the students can now read and write, but they still struggle with maths.
"It's been a great endeavour by our soldiers and their students over the past two years. They were living in poor conditions with little chance of escaping poverty. Some also suffer from congenital defects," said Major Ho Song Phuong, a political officer.
"They did not receive an education or proper care from their parents, so we took the time to get them back on track. Now they recognise the importance of education, and we love to share with them," Phuong said, adding that the soldiers make regular donations each week to buy books, teaching materials and gifts for the students.
"We are happy to be here. We enjoy spending the holidays with the soldiers during Tet and Children's Day. I wish I had a good book to read right now," said Muon.
Muon's father, Phan Van Huy, 40, said he had to collect pennies working as a porter, mason, restaurant waiter or cleaner to support his family.
"My wife has been sick for a long time, and she can't do anything apart from the housework. The money I earn is barely enough to pay for food, and we have no savings to pay for our children's studies," Huy said.
"We were living in a fishing boat docked on the Han River in late 1990s before we moved along the waterway from Hue," he said.
"Our children had a lucky break when the night classes started two years ago, and now they've escaped illiteracy."
Senior Lieutenant Colonel Do Van Dong from the Border Guard Commander, said the night class had adopted the city's literacy policy.
"We started adult literacy classes in 1998 for thousands of residents, mostly fishermen from the coastal districts of Hai Chau, Thanh Khe and Thuan Phuoc," Dong said
"When we completed the classes four years ago, all of them could read, write and perform basic calculations. None of them use their fingerprints instead of signing their name anymore," he said.
Senior Lieutenant Colonel Nguyen Thanh Binh, from the Han River border crossing station said poor kids also received gifts and provision during the holidays.
"We assigned soldiers to four posts to help local people with difficulties. Young soldiers were sent on teacher training courses before the classes started," Binh said.
Second Lieutenant Hoang Van Son said and two fellow soldiers had to cover classes at the same time.
"We divide them into age groups and levels of education. To start with, we show them how to hold a pen correctly, then the process of teaching them how to write begins. Some of them are deaf, dumb or intellectually challenged," Son explained.
"It needs patience. We gradually get them to join in the fun or encourage them with candy. They would leave the class if we shouted at them," he said.
Senior Lieutenant Le Huu Trung said a group of three special kids attend class for just six hours a week.
"Their attention span is short so they only study for an hour at a time. We try to make the lessons lively and fun," Trung said.
He said that they have struggled to make progress with a 16 year old for almost two years, but without much luck.
"He suffered a brain defect at birth. He looks like an eight year old kid. He can only write the letter O, but we keep working with him. We hope that someday he'll be able to write easy words and do the right things in life," he said.
Political officer Ho Song Phuong said the class would take final examinations this summer.
"The better students will go up a level, and those who don't do as well will continue to receive more training," Phuong said.
"It's a hard job, but we're happy to help them and hope they will have better lives in the future." — VNS