Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, kindergartens in Vietnam have remained closed since May 2021. Many teachers have had to do other jobs to make ends meet over the last 10 months.
Their biggest dream is school reopening.
“Let’s keep ourselves motivated and believe that we will see the light at the end of the tunnel,” said Dao Thi Trung Anh, a 28-year-old kindergarten teacher based in Hanoi.
“As long as we keep trying harder, we will still have a Tet holiday with enough food and flowery decorations,” she said, referring to Vietnam's Lunar New Year celebration starting early February.
“I hope that all kindergarten teachers will have their job back with a better pay than the previous year.”
Former teachers work as shippers, nail technicians
37-year-old Dang Le Huyen is a kindergarten teacher in Hai Ba Trung District, Hanoi.
It has been a long time since she has been out of work due to school closures in the capital city of Vietnam.
“Due to the pandemic, I could not go to work. I came under the pressure from our daily expenses, foods, drinks and tuition fees for my children,” she said.
“As my main job was not yielding any income, I signed up as a shipper and have been working full-time starting 6:00 to 7:00 am every day.”
Now she spends her days riding from district to district in Hanoi from dawn till dusk.
For days, she earned enough for the family’s daily food costs, but at times, she could not make enough and came home in tears, fearing her children would spend the next day in hunger.
It became the norm for her to experience road incidences – motorbike breakdown, fuel running out in the middle of the journey, and crashes with other vehicles.
Her greatest nightmare was to deliver stuff in remote, isolated areas.
The feeble kindergarten teacher, who was always gentle to children, might not be able to defend herself in the face of robbers.
Suffering a similar fate, Dao Thi Trung Anh used to work for a sizable kindergarten with a handsome salary, but her seven years’ savings soon disappeared following months of unemployment.
“A mother of two small children, I could not make enough to cover their milk, diapers and occasional medical expenses,” she said.
“I once thought of switching to working at a factory because at least that would bring a stable earning.”
“I even took a spa specialist training course for three months, but in the end, I decided that being a kindergarten teacher was everything to me.”
|Currently working as a tutor, Dao Thi Trung Anh keeps her children busy with a schedule similar to a school activity timetable, including physical activities, arts and reading. Photo: Ha Quan / Tuoi Tre|
Longing for school reopening
The two teachers then found out about private childcare demands that offered a minimum monthly pay of VND6 million (US$265).
Taking their jobs from social media websites, they brave 10- to 20-kilometer motorbike trips to their employers.
“I was moved to tears to receive my first monthly pay. I told everyone in my family that I could finally get my hands on some good money for my children,” Trung Anh said.
“For this Tet holiday, our family will still have our traditional specialties and we will put up some nice ornaments. We’ll get some new clothes for the kids, too.”
In Trung Anh's opinion, a lot of kindergarten teachers relate themselves to housemaids when they work as tutors, feeling ashamed as they come to these private homes.
The parents, however, think very highly of them.
Thousands of other kindergarten teachers just like Trung Anh have been forced to leave their schools to make ends meet.
Some become real estate agents, some set up online stores, while others launch family diners at home.
Many also register as blue-collar workers at manufacturing firms.
The People’s Committee of Ho Chi Minh City recently gave the green light to kindergarten reopening in February, after Lunar New Year holiday.
“My hope is that teachers and children can get back to school,” said Huyen.
“Though the current work is nice, it is still better to work at school because the job of teachers is to transmit as much knowledge to as many children as possible.”
A father of a three-year-old and a five-year-old, Dang Chung from Bac Tu Liem District, Hanoi, said: “My wife and I are both civil servants, so we cannot work from home to take care of our children.”
“We agreed to send them to our hometown with my parents. They have been away from us for one year.”
“The little children get sick and emotional. Sometimes, they wake up at midnight, sobbing and demanding to see us.”
“I just hope that kindergartens in Hanoi can reopen soon so that the kids can be back to their parents, friends and teachers.”
Support from the government
According to the Vietnam’s Ministry of Education and Training, over 28,500 kindergarten institutions had to close from May 2021 until December 2021, among which 58 schools and 526 kindergarten institutions, both public and private, went out of business.
Based on a quick survey, 95.2 percent of kindergarten institutions had no revenue for a majority of six months and above and 81.6 percent could not pay their staff members.
The ministry plans to draft a comprehensive scheme that specifically supports teachers at the kindergarten level, especially those in the private sector.