For many children across Vietnam, their first day of school on September 5 this year will be much different. Their way to class has never been so short with all their books, friends, and teachers accessible through just one click on the computer screen. Online learning changes the students’ learning experience and challenges parents in supporting roles to guide their children through lessons. Yet, for Mr. Hoang Van Nhinh in Trung Khanh, Cao Bang – one of the few “green provinces” in the country with no Covid-19 community cases, the role of teaching assistant in primary school classes has been familiar with him for more than three years.
Like many other Mong people, Nhinh got married early and at the age of 28, he is already a father of three. Struggling daily to provide for the family, Nhinh thought his whole life would just pass by like that. Since he was invited by ChildFund Vietnam to participate in the assisting parent’s group, his life seems to have a new meaning.
He started as an assisting parent in the 2018-2019 school year, at Pu Do satellite school of Quang Han preschool, Quang Han commune, Trung Khanh district when his first son was only 4 years old. Thinking of the first few days on the job, he reminisced: “Like children, I was so shy and scared that I would not be able to do it”. After participating in training sessions, Nhinh got familiar with new skills, from teaching assistant skills in bilingual classes (Vietnamese and Mong) to supporting techniques for children. The assisting parents groups also organize activities in which Nhinh and other parents exchanged their thoughts and experiences related to not only classroom matters but also how to support children at home. In addition, they acquired knowledge in gender equality that project officers naturally integrated into group activities, making each training seems as easy as a casual conversation.
Now, with 3 years’ experience as an assisting parent, Nhinh has become much more confident in class. His multi-grade class has 21 children of three different grades, all of them are Mong ethnic minority groups. Since teachers do not understand Mong, which leads to their limited communication with students, Nhinh plays a part as “The bridge between teachers and the children”. “The teachers teach in Vietnamese, then I repeat in Mong, I try to explain in the easiest way for children to understand” explained Nhinh. He even went an extra mile in translating one of the most popular kid songs, “Mot con vit” – One little duck, into Mong. His translated version of the song has become familiar to both teachers and children here.
Mr. Nhinh as an assisting parent during a class at Lung Kinh satellite preschool, Quang Han commune, Trung Khanh district, Cao Bang province.
Aside from being the “second teacher” in class, Nhinh also plays the “mother” role when picking students up from their parents (and vice versa), guides students on how to use the toilet, wash their hands, or reminds them to greet teachers at school. He excitedly said “Since becoming an assisting father, I have understood children better and learned the difficulties teachers faced. Children like having assisting parents in class. They clap whenever they see us”.
Establishing groups of Mong assisting parents is an activity within ChildFund Vietnam’s project “Being Confident to Reach Dream” in 6 communes of Tra Linh, Cao Bang from December 2018 to May 2021. The assisting parents model has brought positive changes in the project’s communes – children learn and play more effectively, while parents in remote and mountainous areas can improve their knowledge and become more proactive in raising children.