While Vietnamese teachers are complaining about their low pay, an old woman continues teaching for free in the Mekong Delta.
68-year-old Nguyen Thi Do, a.k.a. Ms. Ba Do, has been offering free education for almost 30 years in Hau Giang Province, where generations of poor students have studied with the woman in her small riverside café that doubles as a classroom.
Ms. Ba Do graduated from a pedagogical junior college in neighboring Vinh Long Province, but she had to give up her dream of being a teacher on account of family issues.
Yet the woman decided to revive the dream years later by running complimentary classes for local kids from disadvantaged families.
“At first many people were surprised to find out that I was teaching kids for free,” Ms. Ba Do said. “They didn’t think I could do it.”
Good news then traveled fast. Children, needy or homeless, came to her asking for a seat in the “small classroom.” Ms. Ba Do never turned down anyone, since she “tried hard to study in the past,” so “it would be a huge waste to let the knowledge fade away.”
“I was determined to keep running classes for poor students in my café for that reason.”
She split the class, attended by up to 100 students at peak time, into morning and afternoon shifts to teach them math, Vietnamese, English, physics, and chemistry, 1st through 9th grades.
The teacher also gives assessment tests every month and presents the best students with notebooks and pens as encouragement.
“Ms. Ba Do loves the kids very much,” a parent, whose children are enrolled in her class, said. “They make progress day by day, and even local government leaders send their kids to her.”
For this woman, free teaching is more than charity work – it is her real passion.
“The kids still need me so I will continue teaching them, even though I am almost 70 years old now,” she said. “I hope to teach for at least 10 more years.”
She cannot remember how many students she has taught during the past three decades. But she knows for sure that many of her current students are the children of those who studied with her years ago.