Street kids get new lease on education

Street kids get new lease on education

(02-05-2007)

HCM CITY — Children whose families were migrants living in slums in the City’s Ward 10 gained a chance to study when the evening class of Nguyen Thanh and friends began last year.

The three young teachers are members of the residential quarter’s Youth Union.

Ten years ago, when he was a 10th-grade student, Nguyen Thanh left his birthplace in Nghia Hanh District, Quang Ngai Province, for the city to earn money to continue schooling.

He stayed at a rented house in the Ward 10 slums, the home to many migrants who had left their native lands in the southwest region to seek work in the City as well as of citizens whose houses had been torn down to make way for construction projects.

There, he gained a thorough understanding of the disadvantages and lack of study opportunities that local children suffered.

"They sell lottery tickets and ice cream and clean shoes to help their families," Thanh said. "They have no idea about education, but they have learned a lot of bad things at a tender age. Some can not even go to school because they do not have birth certificates."

He realised that it was time for less talk and more action. "What I can do for them?" he thought.

Thanh asked Hoang Ha and Minh Tien, two friends and both members of the local Youth Union, to help him out in starting a class at the Union offices.

At first, he was rejected when he visited the slum tenements to encourage children to attend his class. Undaunted, he began the class with just a couple of students.

Nguyen Van Tuan, 15-years-old but looking even smaller and younger than his age, came to the class every evening. Earning a living by selling ice cream at the Cho Lon bus station, Tuan supported his family in the southern province of Dong Thap with the hope that he could save up enough money to return to his native province and build a house for his family.

The class for poor children lacked almost every necessary educational facility, but Thanh and his friends even spent their own money to buy books for the kids.

Gradually, the children learned not only how to read and write but also how to behave themselves.

Now, the class has around forty students and is a source of pleasure and pride for the local Youth Union branch of Residential Quarter No 2. Some parents who used to reject Thanh are now asking him to teach their children.

They now have use of the offices of the residential quarter to study and have desks donated by the Phu Dinh primary school.

The class has been called "5-in-1" because students from the first grade to the fifth grade sat in the same room under the guidance of members from the Youth Union.

Many of the kids were older than their grade levels so Thanh has had to talk them into sharing their dreams and troubles in life. He also taught his students martial arts afterclass.

"To learn martial arts is to learn how to behave which can help them realise what’s good and what’s bad to become useful citizens in society," Thanh said. — VNS

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