Pupils attend a ‘school’ in Ho Chi Minh City not only for free learning, but also for free meals.
Part 1: Free-of-charge services in busy SaigonPart 2: Free mealsPart 3: Free lodging, transport for far-from-home students Part 4: Teachers without salary, free lunch for students
Not only are they unpaid, the ‘teachers’ of this school in Binh Tan District also have to pay for food for their students.
The school has been operational for six years thanks to the good will, effort, and limited income of a philanthropic family.
Surprisingly, the family is poor, has no valuable assets, and has to live in a rented house which also accommodates the school’s classrooms. It is located at 1B, 5-11-12 Street in Binh Tri Dong Ward.
Six years ago, Mr. Doan Minh Hung and his wife and son started their charitable wish by adopting eight orphans and giving them daily lessons, as they had never attended school before. All of the means of support for the family of 12 come from the thin income Hung makes through selling music and film discs, and the home grocery store run by his wife.
“But I just feel happy see the children grow up and be more and more obedient. More children began coming to my class,” Hung said. “My secret is to have love for them and make them feel listened to and trusted. When they have confidence in you, it’s quite easy to teach them.”
Different level classes
Hung’s rented house contains two classrooms. One is for children up to the third grade and is managed by Hung, while the other is for students from fourth to eighth grade and is taught by his son, Doan Minh Tung, who is a university student.
“Now, fourth grade mathematics is difficult for me, and only Tung can do it,” the father admitted.
Besides teaching at the ‘home class’, Tung works as a tutor to cover his studies’ expenses. Recently, Tung has been aided in his class by classmates who rent houses nearby, including Nguyen Thi Huyen, Le Thanh Tu, and Nguyen Quoc Thao.
Hung started his class of 20 pupils at 6:00pm by checking their pencils and notebooks, which he gave to them.
“They don’t need to spend anything to learn here,” he said.
Tung runs the other class of 50 next to his father’s.
“Even though there are students of different levels in one classroom, they are only separated by tables. I am almost exhausted by walking from this group of sixth graders to the others at the end of the class,” Tung said. “We often joke that we are ‘super teachers’ here.”
Nguyen Thi Hong Vy, 13, a regular student of Hung, told Tuoi Tre, “I am no longer illiterate. Before, my mother didn’t allow me to go to school because I had to work to help her. I work for a bicycle brake plant and get 90,000 dong a day.
“Thanks to teacher Hung, I can now read words and count with digits.”
Hung said, “Vy is 13 and has learned here for three months. She couldn’t read before.”
During break time, or after class, around 70 pupils take turns scooping rice and vegetables into their bowls for dinner.
Hung said he had to promise their fathers that the children would receive dinner so that they would agree to let their kids take part in his classes.
Some people have heard of the free classes and have donated money or rice, vegetables and food for Hung to maintain his free school.
Lawyer of the poor
Trinh Thanh, owner of the Nguoi Ngheo (the poor) law office, has helped numerous poor people involved in lawsuits.
Ninety percent of the clients at his law office are poor, he said. They are poor, poorly educated, and have little knowledge of law, and thus suffer a great disadvantage.
“My colleagues and I are happy after helping someone in misery at court. We receive no money but are moved by and the appreciation they have for us. We also receive simple words of gratitude from prisoners,” Thanh added.
In addition, the State Legal Asisstance Center under the Ho Chi Minh City Department of Justice, located at 470 Nguyen Tri Phuong Street in District 10, has also offered free legal assistance to poor people.
The center, with 180 lawyers, offers legal consultation to 1,200 cases a month, and supplies free legal aid through local newspapers.