Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Fifteen years to life

A story in the weekend paper talked about teaching life in some of the outer provinces. The writer traveled out to visit some teachers who were living in the mountainous interior. He traveled out to the Da river then took the mail boat for six hours up river to where this commune was located on the isolated side of the river in rough jungle.

There he went to visit the school where the teachers worked and lived. The school itself was a small wooden sided and thatched building and near to this lay two houses that the teachers lived in. All 26 teachers lived together sharing the space. Single teachers were allocated a bed to share between two of them but married couples are allocated 4sq.m or enough room as they say for a bed and a desk to prepare lessons. Single teachers prepare their lessons on the dining table.

Teachers rely on students to supply them with wood for the stove and they rarely have anything to eat other than rice.

A quotation reads "The nearest market is 10km away, but if we go to Hang Mien it's 15km by boat. The markets are only held every 10 days so we can only ever buy eggs, dried fish and peanuts." All fresh food that they eat they have to catch. The only way in or out is by the mail boat. When the head teacher has to leave to go to district meetings or collect salaries he has to borrow money so he can buy shrimp to bribe the mail boat captain to let him on board.

The school is short of teachers still and most of the teachers who are there are from the plains of the red river delta. To overcome loneliness many have formed relationships with each other and married. The ministry of Education requires that all male teachers who are posted to the mountains must stay there for 20 years, while female teachers are there for 15 years before they can teach on the plains. But if they marry, they're unlikely to ever leave.

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