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Grandmothers go back to school

Pi Hoa, 67, is the oldest student at an adult literacy class in a poor remote village in the central province of Quang Tri.

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Pi Hoa (right) asks her granddaughter to help her practice reading after class. — Photo

The Van Kieu ethnic minority woman has not missed a day since the class opened more than four months ago in Moi Village, Huong Hoa District.

Hoa has seven children and 15 grandchildren, but she is illiterate due to poverty.

Hoa got married when she was 18 years old, and since then, she has moved to different places trying to earn a living.

“It was very hard for me to find my way because I could not read simple signs. When I was hungry, I was scared of going into a shop because I didn't know what they were selling,” she said.

Now everything has changed for Hoa.

Hoa became a source of inspiration for everyone, including her children.

After class, Hoa asks her grandchildren to help her revise.

Pi Lan, 47, has another reason for going to the class.

“I want to be literate so that I can teach my children and grandchildren,” said Lan.

Every evening, Lan sits on the floor in her stilt house and practises writing, despite her hands being covered in mud after a day working in the fields.

The only man in the class is Ho Van Phuong, 37.

His wife suffers from a mental disorder. Phuong wants to learn so he is confident enough to take her to hospital to talk about treatment.

Nguyen Quang Hung, the class teacher, said Phuong was one of her smartest students.

Illiteracy elimination

The class was opened at the Huong Linh Primary and Junior Secondary School.

Le Minh Quoc, the school principal, said that teachers had put in a lot of effort to start the class.

Six teachers spent their summer vacations going to every house and encouraging ethnic minority women to attend the class.

“Encouraging adults to go to class is much more difficult than convincing children,” said Quoc.

They are the bread-winners in their families, they need food more than words. The feeling of inferiority also stops them from studying.

Now there are 37 students in the class, but many of them don't attend regularly due to work, so some teachers offer to pick them up by motorbike.

Gradually, the class has grown and is open from Monday to Saturday, from 5-8pm.

Teaching the women is also hard work.

Mai Le Huyen, 27, a teacher, said the women were old so their hands were no longer nimble. It’s very difficult for them to hold a pencil, and takes them a long time to remember letters and numbers.

“It needs patience to teach them,” said Huyen.

When an inspection team from the Ministry of Education and Training visited the class, all of the teachers were happy to show their students were able to write and read their own names.

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