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Books a ‘luxury' in remote Central Highlands

Update: November, 03/2014 - 13:34

Eager to read: Students in the Central Highlands province of Gia Lai jostle to read books in the school library. — VNS Photos Thai Ba Dung

by Thai Ba Dung

Students in the remote areas of the Central Highlands province of Gia Lai dream of having enough books for their schooling.

But in such places, old books and narrow libraries serve as the field of dreams of these students. Nearly 60 per cent of the students in Anh Hung Wuu Junior Secondary School in Gao Commune, Pleiku City, come from the Banar and Jarai ethnic minorities. The school is also the poorest in the city.

After class, the teacher informs her students that they could go to the library. Within minutes, dozens of seventh-grade students rush to the library on the second floor to find books.

Small library

The 50sq. m library is suddenly filled with students who jostle with each other to find comic books. They read them with rapt attention.

After getting immersed in a Pokemon comic book for 20 minutes, Kpa Kien shares it with his classmate, Doan Thi Bao Yen. The comic book was printed in 2007, its pages were wrinkled and its cover had been lost, but it still attracted lots of students.

"All of my friends enjoy Pokemon comic books, so until now I can still borrow them," Kien says.

Hoang Thi Bich, a student, says she was interested in folk tales and fairy tales, but she had read all books on them in the library. To have more books to read, Bich borrows from friends whose parents can afford them.

Chu Van Tien, the School principal, says the library has only a few books, mostly textbooks from other schools.

To get children's stories for the students, the teachers must collect them and call for donations from various sources.

"At the end of each school year, we go to other schools in the city to ask for books and lend them to our students," reveals Tien.

Valuable resources: Having enough books for their schooling is still a dream for the poor students, for whom comics books are luxuries.

Whenever they find stories and reference books, the teachers become quite happy because the students like them so much, he adds. But most of the books are crumpled and have lost either their covers or some pages.

"Students in other areas have access to the internet and Facebook, but students here must work hard to help their families earn a living, so having enough books for studies is their big dream and source of happiness," notes Tien.

The Junior Secondary School No 2 in Ia Bang Commune in Dak Doa District faces the same situation. It has nearly 500 students, but its library contains only a few comic books and reference books.

The librarian says the books' contents are insipid and quite similar to each other, so the students didn't like them.

Bui Ngoc Thach, the school principal, admits that the form and contents of the books were too old, so his students could not catch up with students from other schools.

As many as 90 per cent of students here come from the impoverished ethnic Jarai and Banar. Going to school is difficult for them, and books are luxury items, notes Thach.

"I hope more books with interesting and educational content will be added to the library, so students can borrow them for reading at home," he adds.

Need to read

At noon, students of the Junior Secondary School No 2 return home in dusty and slovenly clothes. They play with each other along the country lane under the blazing sun. Their belongings include some old textbooks, two or three notebooks and a pen.

Ksor Tam, a student, recalls that since her first day of school, all of her books were given by her teachers because her parents didn't have enough money to buy them.

After school hours, she must help her parents look after her younger brothers and till the fields.

"I like folk tales with pictures so much, but my parents couldn't afford to buy them," she admits.

Pham Van Hong, principal of the Phan Dang Luu Junior Secondary School in Ayun Commune, Chu Se District, says that whenever the students go to the library, the teachers often ask them whether they have enough books.

"All of them answer that they have enough, but in fact, they have never seen any interesting books besides textbooks, unlike other students in the big cities," he adds. — VNS

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