The students had not left school yet, everyone still waiting and hoping for the rain to pass. Likewise, not many parents had arrived to pick them up, even though it was getting darker. The students ran, bare feet through the mud, over rocks, over big puddles, with their arms around each other. "Of my 30 students, I found 10 of them and brought them to this classroom. Their parents resisted. They hadn't wanted the children to go to school, instead preferring them work and bring home 5,000 VND. They didn't care how their children got their 'income', whether it was from begging or stealing," revealed the headmistress.
The students attended class with books, notebooks and pencils that the headmistress personally provided. Notebooks had to be used to the very last page, where they were then traded in for a new one. They were small gestures, but it's usually the little things that mean the most, and in this case, it was these small gifts that encourage the kids to continue on with their education. They love the smell of new notebooks, hugging them close and breathing in deeply. For a few short hours a day, the kids were taught to read and write, before returning back to the reality of their 'jobs' before nightfall set in.
The headmistress was giving them homework when we walked in. They cast us wary and cautious looks at first, but soon opened up, running up to us and begging us to play with them, to tell them stories as they lead us to a small yard, proudly showing off the fruit trees and the chairs in the playground...
In a previous mission trip in 2010, Father Martino Thong and his troupe had come here to build a wall between the school and the pig far next door, to stop the flow of pig manure from flowing into the playground and class room during the rainy season. But the pile of bricks still lay there, forgotten. "We ran out of money," the headmistress told us sadly when we questioned her.
She accepted the monetary gifts that we had collected from generous donors to support the education of these pupils, but then sadly told us "I will use this money to apply for the birth certificates for 2 of the kids so they can officially go to school, as well as buy some fans to use this summer, and more pencils...I only have two pencils left".
We said our farewells to the class and left to small restaurant to fill up our growling, hungry stomachs with instant noodles. As we departed back to Saigon on the rickety bus, we gave thanks and reflected on the small deed that made our lives more meaningful.
by Hong Duong
August 26, 2010
Translated by Mr. Phung and Jacqueline Huynh. The original version in Vietnamese entitled "Xuân Hưng Ngày Mưa"