55-year-old Phạm Văn Triệu has been the only teacher working at Bùi Hui school branch for the last 11 years. — Photo baoquangngai.vn
QUẢNG NGÃI — As professions go, you would expect a teacher to not lead a lonely life.
Surrounded by hoards of children eager to learn, the job of an educator should be anything but isolated.
However, for 55-year-old Phạm Văn Triệu, his daily routine is as lonely as it gets.
He is the only teacher at Bùi Hui Primary School, and he has a classroom of just eight students who rely on him for an education.
Some in his shoes may have quit, called it a day and moved on to job at a different school. Not Triệu.
“When I think about the children who were born in these remote disadvantaged areas, I don’t want to stop my job,” he said.
Bùi Hui is part of Ba Trang Primary and Secondary Boarding School in Ba Trang Commune, Ba Tơ District – a mountainous area in the central province of Quảng Ngãi.
Triệu’s home is in Ba Cung Commune. It may only be 30km away from the school, but because of the lack of roads, the journey is tough to make.
As a result, the classroom is his home – he rarely gets to see his wife, children and grandchildren and he often finds himself cut off from the outside world.
“When I think about my wife and family, I feel lonely,” he told Quảng Ngãi online newspaper. “There is no electricity, no television and limited phone connection here.”
The lack of resources makes for a difficult time teaching.
With no lighting, he must make use of the limited sunlight afforded to this region to teach. If the school needs water, it means a one kilometre hike to the nearest stream. His kitchen is in a makeshift tent provided by generous locals and as for his bed, that’s just four tables pushed together.
Food is limited too with Triệu living on rice, fish sauce and noodles. When the food runs out, he must travel 30km to his home through forests and across rugged landscapes to stock up.
Sometimes because of bad weather and floods, he must live off the land, foraging in the forests to find food to survive as the journey home is treacherous at best.
But despite all these issues, Triệu wouldn’t change his profession. He knows the service he provides is crucial for the handful of children he teaches.
This year, he is teaching three six-year-olds and five seven-year-olds split into two classes with different curricula.
“Teaching two classes in the same room, the board is divided into two and I have to play the role of two people,” Triệu said.
In his class, the board is divided into two: one side for a Vietnamese lesson for second graders, the other for a math lesson for the first graders. — Photo baoquangngai.vn
The young students are from the H’Rê ethnic group and speak their own language. Triệu’s job is to teach them Vietnamese so that in later life, the students will be given better opportunities.
He has been teaching for almost 35 years, and working in remote locations is nothing new. In his first job it would take him a whole day to get to the school.
“Thirty years ago, it took me a whole day to travel from my home to the village. There was no road at that time. I had to cross through a forest and over streams,” he said.
“Sơn Ba, Sơn Cao, Sơn Liên, Sơn Thượng and Sơn Thủy are among the remote villages where I have been and worked. Only people who have been will know exactly how hard they are to get to.”
So today’s job is nothing new for Triệu, who accepts this is the life he has chosen and a life, despite all the challenges, he finds rewarding.
“I love the children,” he said. “They don’t have enough to eat and they don’t have many clothes, but they want to be in school. They want to learn.”
Nguyễn Minh Hải, principal of Ba Trang Primary and Secondary Boarding School, said colleagues and local residents appreciated Triệu’s enthusiasm.
“Triệu is a good example for us to follow and he has an inspired passion for teaching generations of students in the remote disadvantaged areas,” Hải said.
Phạm Thị Y, a student of Triệu, said she wants to become a doctor and that she would try to study as hard as Triệu told her so that the dream would come true.
It's comments like these that give Triệu the inspiration he needs to do what he does.
His life may be lonely, his existence isolated, but when he sees students smile and enjoy learning, there is nowhere else he would rather be. He feels right at home. — VNS