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Vietnamese teacher hosts free classes to help end illiteracy in seaside village

Saturday, September 28, 2019, 20:02 GMT+7
Vietnamese teacher hosts free classes to help end illiteracy in seaside village
Hoa carefully checks students’ classwork. Photo: Cong Trieu / Tuoi Tre

A 58-year-old teacher has spent the last three decades hosting free classes for both children and adults for poverty-stricken families in a small, seaside village in central Vietnam.

Tran Van Hoa, from Thua Thien-Hue Province, made the decision 29 years ago to host charity classes in the remote coastal village of Dap Goc with the hope of changing the local mindset that education is an unnecessary burden.

Hoa began his official teaching career in Dap Goc’s Phu My Elementary School, but over time parents began sending their children to more reputable school and his classes began to dwindle in size. 

By 2006, when class sizes hit an all-time low, Hoa found himself out of a job.

Meanwhile, despite his lack of income, Hoa pressed on by continuing to offer the free classes he had been hosting at his home for children and adults who could not afford schooling. 

As his lessons and final exams follow Vietnam’s official syllabus, Hoa’s students, despite studying in his makeshift school, are still able to sit for elementary school graduation exams like their peers throughout the region.

Tran Van Hoa poses in front of the makeshift blackboard in his house in central Vietnam. Photo: Cong Trieu / Tuoi Tre
Tran Van Hoa poses in front of the makeshift blackboard in his house in central Vietnam. Photo: Cong Trieu / Tuoi Tre

For Hoa, however, classes aren’t just about meeting national benchmarks, but allowing students to participate in Vietnamese society. 

Thanks to his lessons, students who may otherwise have never learned to read and write are given a real shot at literacy.

Still, reality seems to be the biggest roadblock in many of his students’ lives.

“They often have to skip class to take care of household chores or work to earn extra money for their families,” he shared with disappointment.

Fighting misconception

In addition to his children’s classes, Hoa also hosts study sessions for 15 adults, mainly women, who were denied a proper education due to the need to contribute to their families.

Phan Thi Thai, one of Hoa’s adult students, shared that the atmosphere in the village has definitely changed as more and more residents have become literate.

“Being able to read and write in our own mother tongue is definitely the most magical thing that happened in our village,” Thai explained, unable to mask her joy.

But the free classes haven’t always been smooth sailing. 

According to Hoa, many of the villagers used to oppose the idea of gaining a proper education, considering it an unnecessary distraction from participating in the local fishing industry.

As Hoa began befriending the Dap Goc locals, he slowly pushed the importance of education and was able to convince them to reconsider their children’s future. 

For Hoa, the topic is a personal one. 

He chose not to educate his own daughters and, years later, regrets the decision.

“I want their children to have a better future than mine did since I cannot reverse time and fix the mistakes I made,” he said.

Hoa not only hosted charity classes for villagers but also provides them with free study tools thanks to sponsorship from the charity organization Aid to Children Without Parents.

“He is the savior who put an end to illiteracy in our neighborhood and has never asked for needing anything in return,” said villager Ho Van Teo.

For Hoa, the appreciation is reciprocal.

“I find happiness when seeing my students successfully pursue their studies and get decent jobs,” he shared.

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