Blind teacher wins top scholarship for social work

December 12, 2017 - 09:00

Huỳnh Hữu Cảnh and his cousin were digging up an iron object one day when a bomb left over from the war exploded, killing his cousin and leaving Cảnh, then in the fourth grade, blind.

Huỳnh Hữu Cảnh, who has won a scholarship to study for a master’s degree, attends the Australia Awards Scholarships ceremony in HCM City with his wife and sister in early December. VNS Photo Gia Lộc
Viet Nam News

By Gia Lộc

HCM CITY – Huỳnh Hữu Cảnh and his cousin were digging up an iron object one day when a bomb left over from the war exploded, killing his cousin and leaving Cảnh, then in the fourth grade, blind.

“That time was horrible. I fell into a depression,” Cảnh said, adding that he could no longer see a sunset, farmland or colours.

He became isolated in his home and his parents did not know what to do, thinking he would become a lottery ticket seller. 

In early December, he was one of 52 Vietnamese who were granted an Australia Awards Scholarship, which is part of a programme funded by the Australian Government, offering the next generation of global leaders an opportunity to undertake study, research and professional development. 

After his accident, Cảnh, now 32, heard about a school from a radio programme and urged his parents to send him there.

“They were worried about my going alone to another province, An Giang, but they eventually allowed me to leave,” Cảnh said.

After graduating from the An Giang School for Children with Disabilities, he began studying at Nguyễn Đình Chiểu Specialised High School for children with visual impairments in HCM City in 2001.

At that time, the school only extended to the ninth grade, and for further study, students had to enroll in continuing education centres in the city.

Cảnh attended the 10th, 11th and 12th grades at Chu Văn An Continuing Education Centre in the city’s District 5.

“I had to try 10 times harder than other students and had to learn via Braille textbooks, of which there were few. I had to take more time to study, and every evening when I returned to my dorm at the Nguyễn Đình Chiểu school, teachers and student volunteers from the university helped me,” Cảnh said.

After receiving excellent marks, Cảnh was able to enroll in a special education faculty at HCM City University of Education without taking the university entrance examination.

He took part in sports, social welfare programmes and scientific research, and graduated with excellent marks.

Finding a job

During his third year at university, Cảnh and his classmates conducted research on a walking stick with LED lights and different sounds that could help the blind recognise terrain or objects on streets while walking.

The stick also gave an audible warning about people near them.

The stick, which costs an affordable VNĐ162,000 (US$7), helps people with visual impairments feel confident and safe while going outside, according to Cảnh.

The research project won first prize at a scientific research contest for students at HCM City University of Education, which cited its humanitarian purposes.

It also was honoured as one of 81 outstanding research projects at the Creative Youth Festival held in 2012 by the Hồ Chí Minh Communist Youth Union.

After graduation, Cảnh found it difficult to get a job as a teacher, even though he was one of the university’s outstanding students.

“No school manager would take me, only because of my disability. I applied for special schools for children with disabilities, but they were reluctant to hire me even with my excellent marks,” Cảnh said.

The managers said the school working environment and conditions were not suited to him, he added.

Finally, he got a job at Trí Tâm School for Children with Disabilities in the neighbouring province of Bình Dương thanks to his teacher at the university, who introduced him to Trí Tâm School’s principal.

In 2014, when he heard about Kiên Giang Province’s Social Welfare Centre’s recruitment for staff, he applied and was hired, and still works there.

At the centre, Cảnh teaches Braille to children with visual impairments as well as piano or organ for children with disabilities. He also gives massages to seniors.

When he began, some people thought he would not be able to fulfill his tasks, but he proved that he could do anything well.

Studying abroad

“When I was at university, I dreamed that I would study abroad some day. The dream has now come true!” Cảnh said.

He plans to study social work in a master’s degree programme at Flinders University in Adelaide.

“Many people with disabilities still feel uncomfortable and cannot integrate into society well,” Cảnh said. “I want to carry out programmes related to jobs, rights and equality for people with disabilities in the country after finishing my studies in Australia.”  VNS