For the last 26 years working as an upland teacher, Truong Thi Nhuong, a teacher at Tan Thanh Primary and Secondary School in Ha Giang province, spent 23 years working in remote branches.
Nhuong was one of the 14 Inspiring Characters nominated by VietNamNet in 2020.
Truong Thi Nhuong and her students
The teacher has been honored not only for her excellent fulfilment of her professional tasks, but also for her efforts to contact donors to improve the facilities of the school.
To date, the teacher has successfully called for support to build five school branches, upgrade three branches, and build bridges, and called for donations uniforms, textbooks and food for students.
After three years of teaching at Nam An branch, Nhuong volunteered to go to Ngan Thuong branch, the most difficult branch of Tan Thanh School.
As the roads were tough, the teacher had to get up and leave home at 6 am to be able to reach school at 7 am. It was fortunate that a section of road, 1.8 kilometers long, was built in November. It now takes her 20 minutes to go from her home to the school.
There are 60 students at Ngan Thuong branch, including 30 primary school students. There are four classes for primary education, but there are only two classrooms.
Two classes have to share the same room. Nhuong has been assigned to teach second and fourth graders, while another teaches first and third graders, and the remaining is in charge of auxiliary learning subjects.
The students stay in classes in the morning and afternoon from Tuesday to Thursday, while they only have lessons in the morning on other days.
Lunches are prepared for students by the school for the two-shift learning days. With money from donors, each student can have a meal worth VND7,000 a day.
“Students in the mountains are very poor, so we don’t have the heart to collect money from students for the meals,” Nhuong said. Therefore, the teachers have to ‘live within their means’, trying to preparing nutritious dishes for 30 students with the modest amount of VND200,000.
|Ngan Thuong school branch did not have enough tables and chairs, and everything was old or broken. Donors have given 15 sets of tables and chairs, fans and electrical equipment. Every student has three new uniform shirts, footwear and blankets.|
Nhuong goes to market very early in the morning to buy food for the lunches at two school branches. Another teacher comes to meet Nhuong to take the food for the Nam An branch. The food for students at Ngan Thuong branch is carried by three teachers, including Nhuong, in rotation.
After successfully calling for food donations, Nhuong and other teachers persuaded parents to prepare meals for students.
When Nhuong came to the Ngan Thuong school branch for the first time, she saw only two classrooms, one waiting room in disrepair and no kitchen.
In the first days of the academic year, the teachers cooked on the porch. Later, they asked the school to repair the waiting room and turn it into a place for cooking, lunches, and taking a nap for 30 students and three teachers.
Ngan Thuong school branch did not have enough tables and chairs, and everything was old or broken. Donors have given 15 sets of tables and chairs, fans and electrical equipment. Every student has three new uniform shirts, footwear and blankets.
Each student can have a meal worth VND7,000 a day
Nhuong said she alone could not do all this, but all three teachers joined forces to ‘make Ngan Thuong branch change its look’, according to the school’s board of management.
One needs to be brave and not fearful of hardships to be able to stay in the upland area. A colleague of Nhuong, when visiting the school where Nhuong works, told Nhuong that she would refuse to work there even if she was offered a monthly salary of VND30 million.
Nhuong replied to the colleague’s words with a smile. When Nhuong told the board of management that she wanted to work there, she was asked if she could do it as she suffered from backaches. She said: “I will manage myself."
Nhuong said her students are poor and hungry, and many of them are orphans or have parents who have left them. There are also children with intellectual disabilities.
“Two thirds of students live around the area. However, it takes them 30 minutes to go to school, because their houses are on different hills. Only a few of them are taken to school by their parents, and most of them walk to school themselves. Many of them have to cross streams to reach school,” she said.
The students in the upland area have many disadvantages. As parents don’t care much about the children’s study, they don’t have necessary learning aids.
The children even do not have the habit of replying to teachers’ words. However, after a period of practicing, now they know to say hello when seeing the teachers, they can clean themselves, and they carry things to help teachers.
The teacher said her biggest wish now is getting money to build a kitchen, a toilet and a room for teachers. To date, Nhuong has received VND12 million from a donation fund, and will start building once she has enough money.
With an unconditional love for their young charges, many young teachers have volunteered to work in schools in remote and mountainous areas in the hope of providing an education to all.
Nguyen Thi Thanh Ha feels fortunate that she was led by many teachers on her journey of self-growth. And the first teacher was her mother.