ĐẮK LẮK — Two former border guard officers have opened a class for students of all ages in the border area of Ea Súp District in the Central Highlands province of Đắk Lắk, helping local ethnic minority people escape from illiteracy.
Lữ Thị Sáng, 58, lives in La Rvê Commune in the district. She said that when the sun goes down, she finishes all her housework to go to the evening class taught by Phạm Văn Hiếu, deputy chief of the Ea H’leo border-guard station, and Lieutenant Hoàng Văn Thọ.
She grabbed some school books and her ballpoint pen and stepped quickly into the classroom. At class, as she practised writing, she looked focused and serious. "All my life I have worked on farming and raising children to get them through school,” she told the Lao động (Labour) newspaper. “When life is stable, I started learning to write. I have to know the face of the letters so that I can sign administrative papers at State office."
At 7pm, 30 students of all ages turned entered the classroom, noisily discussing the alphabet they had learned in the previous lesson. Two middle-aged teachers in the border guard uniform went into the classroom. Teachers were Hiếu and Thọ.
After about 15 minutes, a male student hurried into the classroom. After being reprimanded for lateness, Bàng Sinh Kiên, 26, the only male student in the class, said he was late because he was busy putting his son going to bed.
"My hometown is in the northern mountainous province of Cao Bằng. Due to difficult and poor living conditions and the distance of the school, there was no chance for me to study," Kiên said.
“Learn to write telephone text messages”
In the early 1990s, Kiên followed his parents to Đắk Lắk Province to live and farm. He met and married his wife. Luckily, his wife was literate, so she could sign the necessary papers with State office, such as the birth certificates for their children.
He spent life on the fields, farming to raise money to support his family.
"At home, my wife knows the letters while I am illiterate, so sometimes I’m embarrassed. Sometimes when my son’s sick and my wife goes away, I go to buy medicine but I can’t read the instructions,” he said.
“My wife sends me a text message, I can’t read it. Too embarrassed, I decided to go to school to learn how to read.”
Hiếu said that when border guards first went to Ia Rvê Commune, they noticed that many ethnic minority people here were illiterate.
Hiếu and his teammate Thọ shared the idea of opening a class to help local people learn to read. Hiếu recalled that the border guard commander immediately agreed to the proposal.
Their first difficulty was in persuading people to come to class.
"Ethnic minority people usually work in farming all year round. Evening is the time for them to take care of housework and rest for the next working day. So it is difficult to call people to arrange time for participating in evening class," Hiếu said. “As teachers, we must maintain the class. We go to each house to encourage people and directly teach. We also integrate the content of propaganda of the implementation of all policies of the Party, policies and laws of the State, dissemination of legal knowledge, security and defence.”
Ia Rvê Commune has over 20 ethnic minority groups. Living in poverty, many local people have not learned the Kinh language. Many of the students therefore didn’t understand what teachers said in the class. Teachers had to ask some students to translate the lecture from Kinh into the ethnic minority languages.
The teachers themselves in this special class also learned some ethnic minority languages to explain the lessons to people more understandably.
Since 2012, the two teachers have organised two classes for 53 people in Ia Rvê Commune. They are currently surveying to open new class.
The teachers are overjoyed that over time, the commune has basically implemented the illiteracy eradication plan as stipulated by the Ministry of Education and Training.
After each course, students participated at exams jointly organised by boarding schools and Ea Súp District’s Department of Education and Training.
“Joy comes to the teachers. All students in the class are good, qualified and certified by the Department of Education and Training,” he said.
Thọ said he has moved to work in another border guard office, so he plans to set up a literacy class there to replicate the model of literacy eradication in Ea Súp District.
“A literacy class will be opened in Ia Lốp Commune, aiming to fight illiteracy among the ethnic minority community, contribute to improve the spiritual life and help local people to stabilise their lives,” Thọ said.
Lê Thanh Hải, Ia Rvê Commune Party Committee Secretary, said: "In Ia Rvê Commune, 70 per cent of households are poor, so a large number of people don’t have conditions to go to school.”
“The illiteracy eradication programme of the border guards, as well as the classes of Hiếu and Thọ, are very practical, helping local people with reading, writing and calculating to apply scientific and technical knowledge into production. It contributes significantly to the improvement of people’s lives in the area." — VNS