Khmer ethnic woman opens free-of-charge class for poor children in Bến Tre

A Khmer ethnic woman in the Cửu Long (Mekong) Delta province of Sóc Trăng turns her small porch into a free class for poor children.

The 64-year-old teacher instructing a girl to write. Photo

She is Trần Thị Mươn, and she has run the class for more than 22 years in a small alley on Tôn Đức Thắng Street in the city of Sóc Trăng.

The class does not have a salary for the teacher but it is full of love for the poor students.

Every day, dozens of children, most of whom are poor Khmer ethnic minorities, come to the class to learn how to read and write.

The classroom is very humble. It is on Mươn’s porch with a few dozen plastic chairs, a blackboard and some white chalk.

The teacher is 64 years old and the students are of different ages. They have many circumstances such as being too old to go to school, not having a birth certificate or their parents are poor.

Mươn used to be a preschool teacher but she had to quit the job to work at a different job, including as a xe ôm (motorbike taxi driver), to earn money to raise three children.

In 2000, Mươn was offered a job by a church near her home to teach disadvantaged children.

At the same time, she saw that many children living in her area were illiterate. They run around on the street every day, so she decided to open a class at home to teach them free of charge.

"At that time, I wondered that given that I used to be a teacher and was still healthy, so why couldn’t I help the children learn to read and write," Mươn told online

Since then, from Monday to Friday, in the morning she teaches at the church’s school with a salary of more than VNĐ2 million (US$85) per month, and from 1pm to 3pm, she teaches poor students at home.

Mươn’s class starts at 1pm, but from 11am, many children arrive. They bring lunches that they eat at her house.

Over the past 20 years, Mươn has not only taught thousands of children to read, write, and do math, but also how to be polite and behave well in life.

Triều Đăng has no father and his mother works far away in southern Bình Dương Province, so he is being raised by his grandmother. He is 10 years old but does not yet have a birth certificate so he could not register to public school.

"Before, I was illiterate. Thanks to studying with teacher Mươn, I can read, write and do math," Đăng said.

Families of all children in the class are very poor so Mươn learns about the children's family situation, then donates books and other supplies, even food.

Mươn also mobilised the local people to donate old textbooks, pens and food for the children.

"Many people knew about the class and the children’s plight, so they donated many things including rice and noodles," the teacher said.

Thạch Thị Như Ý, a 12-year-old student, said, “since the day I was admitted to Mươn’s class, I have been very happy because I can read and do math.”

“My younger brother is also being taught by Mươn. She teaches for free and also gives us books, notebooks, pens and food,” said Như Ý.

“She is a kind person, often helping others," she said.

During more than 20 years of teaching, Mươn has had hundreds of students who are always grateful for her help and kindness.

"Many old students after 20 years came to visit, hug me and say ‘thanks to you, I can read and write,' that makes me happy,” Mươn said.

“That was exactly what I needed when I taught the kids. Money is earned and then spent. Helping them know how to read and write made me feel happy and useful," she said.

"I will run the class until I can not teach anymore,” she added. – VNS


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