|Ready to read: Though they still face many difficulties, the Ruc students study hard. — VNSPhoto Dang Tai
by Phan Phuong and Trung Hieu
Since the 1959 discovery of the ethnic Ruc in a cave in the mountains of Thuong Hoa Commune, Minh Hoa District, Quang Binh Province, officials have tried to reintegrate them with the community.
Working with the Border Guard Force of the province, the authorities have made numerous efforts to get this "youngest brother" of the Vietnamese ethnic groups accepted into mainstream society.
In addition to bringing the Ruc out of the caves for resettlement and teaching them how to support themselves to stabilise their lives, the authorities have paid special attention to teaching them how to read write because literacy is thought to be the shortest path to ensuring their integration with the community.
The initial responsibility was borne by the border guards. Generations of commanders at the Ca Xeng Border Guard Station in the region consider the job of making the Ruc literate to be no less important than protecting the border.
Ever since the Ruc were brought out of their caves, the station has been holding literacy classes for these people almost every year.
Major Truong Thanh Luu, an officer remained stationed for 10 years in the mountainous villages, is affectionately referred to as "the teacher" by the Ruc as he taught them the words.
He says the border soldiers like him often teach the "students", who are mothers and grandmothers, at the literacy classes held in the evening.
"My latest class has 35 students between the ages of 15 and 50 years," he says.
Thanks to such classes, many of the Ruc have become literate and now know how to sign their names on the documents. Previously, they used to affix their fingerprints only when asked to sign.
|Dedication: Ho Tien Nam, the first teacher of the Ruc people, guides one of his students. — VNS Photo Phan Phuong
While the adults attend evening classes, all the Ruc children go to school.
Tran Thanh Bun, principal of Yen Hop Elementary School, says 126 students from the Ruc community are now studying in the school.
"This is also the first time the school has started two extra classes at junior secondary level - a 6th grade class with 20 students and a 7th grade class with 16 students. Teaching the children is a venture that still faces certain difficulties but it is an important step in the long journey to achieve better development," he says.
Ruc takes immense pride in Ho Tien Nam, the most outstanding man in the village. The seventh child among eight siblings, he experienced a life full of misery and poverty. Till 1959, his grandparents and parents lived in the cave.
The border guards discovered them and brought them back to the civilized world. When the border guards and teachers encouraged them to go to the school, Nam joined the other children "to go to school for fun", but unlike other Ruc students, Nam turned out to be a studious boy.
In a short span of time, he learned to read, write and speak Vietnamese fluently. As he learned from teachers, he soon realised that his only hope of escaping poverty was through his studies.
This was the realisation that made Nam very determined to learn.
During the first three years at the Yen Hop Primary School, Nam always topped the class in academic achievements.
About the Ruc
The Ruc ethnic minority people were discovered by the local border guards and police in August 1959 in a cave in the Phong Nha - Ke Bang region in Minh Hoa District of Quang Binh Province, comprising 34 persons from 11 families.
They had very obsolete habits, lived in deep caves, indulged in hunting and gathering, but they could make musical instruments, including flute, and sang folk songs.
Because they had customs that were too old and lived in caves and jungles, the Ruc faced a risk of serious reduction in their population.
In the last 40 years, with help from the authorities, the Ruc have made efforts to integrate themselves with the community.
Their population have been growing gradually. The latest census in 2009 showed that there are more than 600 Ruc people living in Thuong Hoa Commune along with other ethnic groups. — VNS
After finishing the 1st period of the 3rd grade class, he must pass through the jungle to go to the Ethnic Boarding School in the district.
"In those days, the way to the school was very hard. During the initial few days, one or the other adult used to accompany me so that I could overcome my fears," he recalls.
After finishing junior secondary school, Nam continued to study further, enrolling for high education at the provincial Ethnic Boarding School.
Three years later, he was admitted to the University of Quang Binh to study at the primary pedagogy major.
After five years of studying hard, he graduated in 2013 with a good degree, and in October of the same year, he received orders to teach at the Yen Hop Primary School at his own village.
Head of the Yen Hop Village, Cao Ngoc Ha, proudly says: "I will ask children in my village to follow Nam and strive to learn, so they can later become useful people for our homeland."
Nam works hard every day, wholeheartedly devoting himself to teaching.
"I'm very happy to have become the first Ruc teacher. As I held the orders in my hands, my eyes welled up with tears of joy," he says.
"For all that I have today, it is thanks to my teachers who taught and loved me. For what they have done for me, I would be grateful all my life," Nam says. — VNS