On the way to the mountain region, I saw many unbelievably pretty forest flowers. But what I keep in my heart for good is the beauty of the teachers who are working here.
There was a wicked rumor that the teachers came up here just for a place in the government, and they would go home after a few years. I don’t believe so after seeing what they have done and what they are doing for the children. Without the love for teaching and for the children, no one can overcome the obstacles at this kind of place.
Are you willing to stay in these houses (if you could call them that) which are made from bamboo and canvas? They can.
Is anyone wondering: How warm does the bedroom above get when the cold winter wind arrives?
Don’t have enough toys and teaching tools for the children? Let’s see what the teachers at Pacheo Kindergarten have made.
It seems natural for them to take their own salary to spend for the students who are poorer than them. I wish my children could be students of such kind-hearted teachers. Maybe I am an old-fashioned woman when I keep thinking that learning how to be a kind man is far more important than learning knowledge.
During the trip, I concentrated on seeing how the children are taught and I was so surprised. The strongest impression about the students in mountain region, all the members of the trip agreed, was that they are so good, friendly and polite.
At the Suoigiang boarding elementary school, after I helped them put on new jackets, all of them politely said to me: “Thank you very much!” or “Thanks for your help!”
Standing in the Pacheo Kindergarten, if you closed your eyes, you would think that you were standing in a big kindergarten in Hanoi. The children talk and sing in the official Vietnamese language with very clear, lovely childish voices. Chattering, they read some long children poems before our surprised eyes. I don’t know whether the teachers wanted to show off the children with us: near to 40 babies from 2 classes (children of all ages are in a class) got out to play during the time we were there. They made a circle to play games and sing songs. I realized that they knew almost all of the up-to-date children songs.
A teacher said: “Let’s play a game!”, and all the little birdies cried: “Which game? Which game?”, as a way to start a new game. That’s the children’s nature. They don’t care about being hungry or lacking warm clothes, it’s most important to enjoy themselves and have a chance to play together.
When the children had their presents, the teachers put a small basket in the center of the circle and all the children automatically brought their cartons of milk and wrappers to put into the basket. Who dares to say that the people who live in the big cities are more civilized than these children?
At lunch time in Denthang Kindergarten, I was delighted to see the older children help the teachers bring bowls of rice to the younger ones. Nobody would start to eat until everybody had their own bowl. Then they all spoke in chorus: “Please have lunch with us.” Wow, the naïve voices are so adorable.
Thank you to the flowers on top of the mountains. You gave us back faith in the dedication of teachers. At least, your students who live in this distant region don’t lack one of the most precious things: the love of their teachers.
Could you imagine?
– Water for the children to wash their hands and faces is the last priority. Hanging racks and towels are nearly useless at schools like Pacheo because there is not enough water to use them. The first mistake is when the school was designed; planning the water source was forgotten. The second mistake is the school’s budget isn’t enough to buy water for the school community. The third mistake is… etc… etc… The result is a bunch of chubby faces which rarely blush; they’re all… brown 🙂
– It is forbidden to give the students haircuts. One of my plans was to give every school a pair of scissors and trimmer to help the teachers trim the student’s hair neatly. When I revealed this to one of the teachers at Laochai, she burst into laughter: “It isn’t allowed. The ethnic people don’t allow anyone to cut their children’s hair, if you do, they could make you pay compensation. When I first came here, I didn’t know about this so I cut a boy’s hair; afterwards, I lost 2 weeks of sleep, worried that the parents will come and find me and I don’t have any money to pay them.”
– The kindergarten schools are always placed higher on the hills than the elementary and middle schools. The reason is the kindergartens are always built last and at that time, there isn’t any land left. A teacher at Ngaithau told me: “If you stayed here overnight, at around 6:30 in the morning, you could witness the children gathering like a pack of mice, chasing each other up the hills.” I’m guessing that if it rains, the little pack of mice will take 1 step and retreat 3 steps 😦
Some of my minor questions finally have answers. Though they aren’t complete, I would like to share them with you as you might be wondering about the same things I was before going on this journey:
– The children’s breakfast: The children eat reheated leftover rice from the day before. When I asked about the food, the answer was that if there was leftover food, it would be shared. Both the asker and the answerer understood that the “if” was highly unlikely (I doubt it ever happened) and the children were going to eat the plain rice. Like he couldn’t stop himself, a teacher added: “Sometimes we feel so guilty watching the children eat plain rice, so we bring some fish sauce to the kitchen, and tell the students to pour a bit on their rice to make it easier to eat. But their reply is: “We don’t get used to eat fish sauce.”
– Do the children wear other people’s old clothes? Due to customaries, most of the ethnic people don’t let their children wear other people’s old clothes. However, according to the teachers, recently the children who come to school have been receiving donated old clothes, and this has slowly become a habit. I’m not so sure about the Middle School students since I only visited the Kindergarten and Elementary school, but the students there were still happy to wear donated old clothes. A teacher pointed out to me while the students were playing: “See, the children’s traditional tribal clothes belong to them, and as for the normal clothes, we had to go ask for them or they were donated, since they don’t have enough money to buy clothes like that.”
– At school, the children speak the official Vietnamese language; at home, they speak their tribal languages: Some schools have children from many different tribes. No problem – they study the official language from the teachers and the teachers learn a few short sentences of different languages from their students.
This is pretty long; let’s think of how to help the children tomorrow.