Monk Thích Chơn Nguyên set up tables, chairs and bookshelves on a floating house in the middle of Trị An Reservoir to teach poor children in a local fishing village. — Photo tuoitre.vn
ĐỒNG NAI — In the middle of Trị An Reservoir of southern Đồng Nai Province, there is a floating classroom for poor children, taught by a 41-year-old monk from a nearby inland pagoda.
All of the students from poor households in Thanh Sơn Commune’s fishing village were born and have grown up on boats. They learned how to catch fish at an early age but rarely touched books or pens to learn how to read and write.
“The life of the children is all about fish and fishing nets. Their families even cannot make ends meet, never mind thinking about education. I think I have to lend them a helping land,” said monk Thích Chơn Nguyên.
“At first I taught five children on a floating house where a family is living. Then more and more came to me. I bought a big floating house to open the ‘school’,” he told Tuổi Trẻ (Youth) newspaper.
The special floating class now has more than 20 students aged six to 15.
Every morning from Tuesday to Sunday, children come to the class via boat.
Because the students are of different age groups and at various levels, Nguyên mixes the lessons up to keep everything engaged.
This means he rarely gets a break when in class, apart from at the weekend when a female teacher from HCM City comes to help.
He said he teaches students based on their capacity and the most important thing is their ability to integrate and acquire the knowledge.
“I do not give them tests every week or every month but assess their ability every day… They learn really fast.”
As well as teaching, Nguyên cooks lunch for the children so that they can take a break at noon and continue to learn until 4pm.
All the money for books, meals and health check-ups is provided by the monk and other donors.
Floating houses in the middle of Trị An Reservoir where local fishermen live to earn a living. — Photo news.zing.vn
Nguyễn Văn Nam, 15 years old, one of the oldest students, said he was one of the first students to attend the class.
“I feel happy and find the lessons easy to understand. If I don’t understand anything, I ask the teacher and get the explanation immediately. I want to learn how to read and write to be able to work at a factory when I grow up,” he said.
Nguyên's ultimate goal for his students is a solid education and solid employment, so he also teaches them communications skills once every two months at the pagoda.
“For those who are good at communication, I try to inspire that ability from them so that they can see themselves in a different environment. Children who lack soft skills will be trained to become better day by day,” he said.
“I try to find relevant training methods depending on children’s psychology and family background. I always keep in mind that I teach them not only knowledge but also skills for their life now and in the future.”
“After learning here for a certain time, most of the children are good at basic reading, writing and math skills as well as soft skills. Then they can continue to learn or find jobs if they want.”
Due to the students' special circumstances, many can't get to school on time or do their homework, so Nguyên works around those issues.
Many of the students take off their white shirts and go fishing with their parents right after the class is finished and parents even do not allow children to go to school because they are busy with fishing to make ends meet, he said.
Teacher Nguyên has to give each family rice to persuade the children to continue the class.
After learning about Nguyên’s class, many family members, not only children but also parents, have attended to learn how to read and write.
Some adults have completed the course and are working on the mainland.
Nguyên set the target of eradicating poverty for people living on the boats in Thanh Sơn Commune so they can leave the boats and come ashore to integrate into life on the land. — VNS