An ethnic Vietnamese female teacher braves the geographical difficulty and shortage of amenities to help kindergarteners with both their daily life and education.
She even spends her own money on their food at times.
Ho Thi Ca dedicates her whole week to teaching and caring for 23 little pre-school children in Tak Le, one of the eight stand-alone classes under the management of Tra Leng Kindergarten.
Tak Le can be seen hanging on Mount Ngoc Linh in Tra Leng Ward, Nam Tra My District, Quang Nam Province.
Even those who know their bearings in this area dread the idea of getting to this class considering the distance and the steep slopes along the way.
Against all odds, Ca has spent the last five years trekking to this traveler-unfriendly school to serve the children.
She is from the Ca Dong ethnic minority group and her footsteps can be heard in Mount Ngoc Linh every Monday when she arrives and every Friday when she leaves.
Classroom with no electricity, no phone signal, no fresh water
Tak Le appears a makeshift educational set-up. It is made from a tent around 30 square meters in size.
There is no gate and no name sign.
Around it are thin sheets of tole and aluminum fence.
As the evening draws close, the sky becomes dark very quickly, blending the school deep into the jungle where one can find no electricity, light, phone signal, television, and even fresh water.
The person in charge, Ca, is almost out of breath as she has to both keep the children in order and prepare warm water for their baths after class time.
Dinner and bath time finish at around 8:00 pm, at which point Ca flings herself to bed out of exhaustion.
Next to her are little children sound asleep.
Tak Le has 23 students, all of whom are from the Mo Nong ethnic minority in the area.
Tran Thi Hoang Oanh, principal of Tra Leng Kindergarten, said that among the classes in Tra Leng, Tak Le is the most tiring to the teacher in charge.
“The class is inaccessible by road and there is no phone service,” said Oanh.
“The teacher is the only source of knowledge here.
“The parents respect and revere the teacher.
“It takes a lot of sacrifice and perseverance to work here.”
Not just their teacher, but their mother too
According to Ca, she was assigned to work at the Tak Le class in 2018 after graduating from her teacher training college.
Despite being a local born and bred at Mount Ngoc Linh, it was staggering for her to find out how tough it was to be a teacher in this school.
Due to the large number of classes scattered around the area and the inaccessible road system, Tak Le remains shabby, according to Oanh.
Tak Le Village is home 70 households living in two areas, around 30 minutes’ walking distance from each other.
Elementary school children in this village will go to a boarding school in Tra Leng Ward.
The kindergarteners, however, remain in the mountain because they need to be close to their family and because they are too small.
“It will be miserable and dangerous for these feeble children to trek the mountain home after school,” said Ca.
“So we teachers discussed with the school management and agreed that they remain where they live.
“After class hours, we prepare dinner and a bath for them.
“They sleep at the school as well.”
Ca has to both teach and take care of the 23 children. That is no mean feat.
“During the day, the kids have a lot of fun, but they begin to lose their cool in the evening,” said Ca.
“Some of them wake up in the middle of the night, crying out loud saying they miss their parents.
“I almost have no time for a good sleep.
“I lie down next to them and keep them calm.
“The next morning, I will wake up very early and get their breakfast ready, preparing them for a whole day at school.
“It’s really challenging but it feels great to see them grow like my own children.”
She even spends her pocket money
According to Ca, the parents in Tak Le receive a VND500,000 (US$22) grant from the government every month for their children’s lunches.
However, due to their families’ financial hardship, they spend this sum buying seeds and fertilizers for their farmwork instead of giving it to the teacher.
“Every month I charge the parents only VND50,000 [$2.2] because I understand their difficulty. The rest of the food costs comes from philanthropists,” said Ca.
“Sometimes I even spend my own money buying them some more foods as I cannot stand seeing their low-quality meals.”