“Stars” on the border
12/4/2023 10:44:14 AM
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Afternoon in the mountains descends very quickly. The cold rain and mountainous wind can not stop children going to the "Stars Class". That is the name of a free English and drawing class for ethnic minority children in difficult circumstances living in the border district of A Luoi. In this class, there are only smiles and joy that make the children do not want to leave.

With a long wooden table, two wooden benches placed on both sides of the table, some chairs arranged around it, and a board, a drawing and English class is set up every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday nights at Hue Crown A Luoi Retreat (Viet Tien village, Hong Kim commune, A Luoi district. This class was launched in the recent Mid-Autumn Festival). Although the classroom space is small, it is ‘spacious’ thanks to the hearts of those setting up the class.

Ms. Nguyen Thi Ngoc Tran, a tour guide and the operator of the "Stars Class" at Hue Crown, shared that the class is currently providing free English and drawing lessons for children in difficult circumstances in Viet Tien village and its neighborhood.

According to Ms. Tran, learning to draw can help children practice thinking skills and develop the habit of being meticulous, careful, observant; and also learn how to persevere. While learning a foreign language can help them become bolder and more articulate. Besides, being good at the foreign language also provides them a solid preparation when they enter middle school, high school or university. But most of all, the "Stars Class" is an interesting playground for children in the remote village, where useful entertainment places are still rare.

In these highland villages, outside of school hours, if children do not go to the fields to help their parents, they will stay at home to look after their younger siblings, take care of chickens, pigs, and do housework. Therefore, the afternoons of Monday, Wednesday (learning English), and Friday (learning drawing) are the time that they most look forward to going to the "Stars Class".

 The children love and are excited about English and drawing lessons

Entering the classroom, you will catch up with the eyes as bright as starlight, hanging on the mountain top far beyond the village. The smiles showing off their white teeth as straight as the corn kernels that their parents had just brought to the kitchen from the field. The children rushing into the classroom like wild birds, with their voices and laughter as clear as the sound of the A Nor stream gurgling through the rocks of the mountain in front of the village.

“Yes, I am eager to study. I just want to study forever, and I don't want to go home," said Thu May, a 5th grader at Hong Kim Primary School. As for Manh Quang (a 3rd grader), "I like this class at one hundred percent," he said.  Crispy laughter and the joy from the children seem to spread out, blending into the deep green trees of this place.

Ms. Duong Ngoc Giang Thuy, a teacher at the "Stars Class", shared that the English class had about 20 children from 6 to 12 years old. Her class mainly teaches vocabulary according to topics, and practices communication skills. Starting from familiar topics such as trees, animals, and dishes; and then to familiar items of the people there; therefore, the children are very interested. "Seeing the children enjoy and being passionate about learning, with their excitement shining through their eyes, makes me extremely appreciative," shared teacher Thuy.

2. We took the bus to A Luoi on Monday afternoon to get to Ms. Thuy's English class at Hue Crown in time. I thought I would have to stay in A Luoi for two more days to wait for artist Nguyen Viet Cong Thanh's drawing class on Wednesday. Luckily, his drawing class was made up at the next night, because the previous class had been canceled due to heavy rain and flood.

It was not yet 5 pm, the drawing teacher was present at the "Stars Class" to prepare tools before the children entered the class. The weather suddenly rained heavily, and showed no signs of stopping. Knowing that the students were still coming to class in the rain, Mr. Thanh was still restless and worried. With wet rain and muddy roads, would it be safe for them to go to the class? But it seemed that the difficulties did not stop the children from having fun going to class. Looking at the faces getting wet from the rain and their little feet covered in mud, but there was still a grin on their lips, Mr. Thanh "put away" his worries.

Pencils, colors, and drawing papers were all prepared by the teacher. The children just needed to bring their excitement to class. Tiny hands shaped each stroke, and the eyes were clear. Drawing color splashed all over the table as they were trying to complete their drawings. The rain falling heavily on the leaves and trees could not "wet" the chattering voices and laughter there. A small corner in the mountainous region was fulfilled with the warmth of love, dispelling the cold air emanating from the mountains.

Unlike teacher Thuy's English class, which was always bustling with the sounds of reading new words, with laughter and joy as the children were competing to read the lessons. The drawing class was bustling in its own way. The children carefully crafted every innocent stroke of the paintings. Teacher Thanh walked around the classroom, correcting each drawing stroke to make it round and matching colors appropriately. Their eyes opened wide in surprise and excitement.

According to Ms. Ngoc Tran, students of the "Stars Class" are mostly Pa Co ethnic people in Viet Tien village. “Being fond of the class’s spirit, many parents want to send their children to the class, but we encourage families with more means to give the slots to children in difficult circumstances,” she shared.

The owner of the Hue Crown retreat said that the "Stars Class" was maintained by partners and the support of many philanthropists, the ones loving A Luoi and wanting to share knowledge with underprivileged ethnic minority children. Along with the "Stars Class", Hue Crown also built the "Sun Bookshelf", which was donated to the class by the philanthropists, so as to help them expand their knowledge and joy.

Ngoc Tran still remembers the day when the books were sent to the classroom. The children opened the book box and eagerly read the cards that the donors had attached. Even though it was raining heavily, the children still came to help carry and arrange the books. Seeing them cherish and caress each book, it is clear that the "Sun Bookshelf" is meaningful in this place.

I remember when the drawing class was over, but the children still lingered in the classroom to play. Manh Quan and Anh Tuan set up a chessboard on a table outside, under an ancient star fruit tree. Both are Pa Co people, and they are in the 6th grade at a boarding junior high school. On this side, Thu May, Manh Quang, Nhu Huyen, and others were engrossed in reading books. The "Sun Bookshelf" is placed against the wall. The "Sans Famille", "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer", "The Severe Childhood," and "The Adventures of a Cricket ", etc., the books of childhood are all neatly stacked on the wooden shelf, waiting for the children to open and embark on exciting adventures, "traveling the world" through the pages of childhood books.

The owner of the Hue Crown retreat expressed: "Hue Crown A Luoi Retreat was "born" and will be associated with the land of A Luoi. Thus, Hue Crown wants to send love and express its gratitude to this land through the "Stars Class", contributing to "nurturing" the learning of ethnic minority children in difficult circumstances. The "Stars Class" will be the first place to give wings to their dreams, hoping that they will have better future. Hopefully, from this small class, the young "stars" will rise up, and later contribute to the increasing development of A Luoi, the border land".