Updated: October 07, 2021 11:37 AM GMT
Students attend an online class at Gan Reo Church in Vietnam's Lam Dong province. (Photo supplied)
A Vietnamese parish priest has come to the rescue of school students from ethnic minorities who could not afford the equipment needed for online learning.
Wearing their school uniforms, more than 100 students attend online classes initiated by Father Dominic Tran Quang Vinh at Gan Reo Church in Duc Trong district of Lam Dong province in the Central Highlands.
The students aged 11-15 are from An Hiep's public school, which was closed for the Covid-19 outbreak and has moved to online classes since Sept. 20.
Father Vinh said the students are from ethnic K’ho, Chil and Ma families who could not afford to get computers, smartphones and internet services.
“To meet students’ needs during the pandemic, we immediately borrowed computers, TVs and speakers from local families to hold online classes for them in time,” he said.
He also called on students who have computers to take them to the church so that they can share them with other students.
Teachers and students are walking on air to work with one another thanks to the church’s support
The 41-year-old priest said he has installed a high-speed internet line and uses catechism facilities in the church’s compound for online classes as religious activities have been suspended to contain the contagion.
On the first day, 107 students went to the church for online classes and many others attended on the following days.
Father Vinh said seventh and ninth graders study in the morning, while sixth and eighth graders study in the afternoon. They are given face masks and disinfectants and are divided into groups, each having 5-7 students in one class to maintain social distancing.
Local educational authorities require online classes to have a maximum of 12 students.
“I daily check devices, visit the students and encourage them to work hard,” the priest said.
Local nuns prepare classes and turn on computers and TVs before students start their lessons. They also offer them fruits, cake and drinking water in breaks.
Nguyen Huu Minh, the school’s principal, said he owes the parish a debt of gratitude for creating favorable and safe conditions for students to study online.
Minh said the school lacks equipment for studies and only equips eight rooms with internet and computers for teachers to provide online lessons. The school has 634 students but one third are from ethnic families lacking electronic equipment.
“Teachers and students are walking on air to work with one another thanks to the church’s support,” he said, adding the school’s vice principal daily supervises his students studying at the church.
Father Vinh said the parish will continue serving students regardless of their faith until their school is open again.
He hopes benefactors will donate computers and TVs to serve students’ online work in the long term.
The parish has 1,300 members who cultivate rice, coffee and vegetables for a living. They have small farms so need to work at factories for more income.
Schools in many provinces affected by Covid-19 have moved to online courses to protect students from infection
Father Vinh said students from a village eight kilometers from the parish still could not attend online courses as they lack equipment.
The priest, who was assigned to the parish in 2016, said he gives high priority to ethnic students’ education. They are given food and tutored in some subjects by sisters and teachers at the church after school lessons.
Thanks to the parish’s determined efforts, more ethnic students are entering secondary school and the number dropping out has fallen dramatically.
The parish has some 140 Catholic students studying at secondary and high schools this year.
Redemptorist Father Joseph Le Quang Uy, who is active in social activities in Ho Chi Minh City, has called on people to donate second-hand laptops to homes for orphans and disabled children who could not afford to buy computers for their online studies.
Father Uy said he has received 10 laptops and delivered them to five homes.
Schools in many provinces affected by Covid-19 have moved to online courses to protect students from infection.
Last month Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh launched a national program to provide one million computers and internet access for 7.35 million students.
Children at Thanh Tam Home in Ho Chi Minh City are happy to receive a laptop. (Photo: Father Joseph Le Quang Uy)
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