“This is my first time using a camera – I don’t have one at home. It’s very helpful and interesting. I want to take nice photo for my mom and my sister.”
Fourth-grade student Trieu Tieu Le lives alone with her older sister during the week and only gets to see her mom on the weekend when she returns from working at a local factory. Being able to take photos for her Mom while she’s away was a comforting thought for Tieu Le who participated in an extracurricular photography workshop organised by Aide et Action in partnership with Taiwan Fund for Children and Families on March 28, 2021, in Cao Son commune, Hoa Binh province.
Hoa Binh, in Vietnamese, means “peace” and is the name given to the rural mountainous province in the country’s Northwest region. Like Hoa Binh, many of Vietnam’s northern provinces are home to ethnic minority groups which, despite accounting for just 15% of the country’s total population, make up 86% of the country’s extreme poor.
In Cao Son commune, located in Da Bac district, one of Hoa Binh’s poorest districts, the poverty rate is at a staggering 15.41% – far above the national average of less than 6% and over 40% of those above the poverty level as categorized as “near poor” by the government. These high levels of poverty coupled with geographic remoteness and lack of access to quality education and healthcare, leave many children malnourished and out of school.
We Have program
To address the issue, Aide et Action’s “We Have” Program in partnership with Taiwan Fund for Children and Families is providing scholarships to some of the commune’s most disadvantaged children as well as improving the quality of physical learning environments for children in schools. Our scholarship, named the “Education for Peace” Scholarship, was awarded to 82 disadvantaged children in Cao Son commune to support them to stay in school. For Trieu Tieu Le, winning the scholarship meant her mother could afford to buy more food for the family. “I felt very happy when I won the scholarship,” says Tieu Le. “I gave it to my Mom to buy food for us and she very proud of me”.
In schools, not only have we improved infrastructure to create more child-friendly classrooms but we’ve also organized Children’s Clubs to promote peace education. Peace education, as defined by is an essential component of quality basic education and promotes the knowledge, skills, attitudes, and values needed to bring about behaviour changes to enable children, youth, and adults to problem-solve and resolve conflict peacefully. Traditionally, children are not part of decision-making processes in education in Vietnam but through our child-centred activities, we wish to encourage teachers and students alike to listen to children’s voices. Our children’s clubs are child-led and the students are the ones who decide what they want to do within their clubs. For example, club members chose to define their own ground rules and to nominate their team leaders in the two first sessions.
On 28 March 2020, children participated in their first-ever photography workshop. Sixteen students from one main school and four satellite school units attended as well as their teachers. Minh Duc, a photography consultant working on behalf of Aide et Action delivered the training which taught the children how to use a digital camera and some key basics of photography. Following a morning of lessons, the children spent the afternoon practicing and developing their new skills with a focus on story-telling.
According to local teacher Trieu Van Thong, the children’s clubs are giving his students more confidence to communicate with others. “Normally they will stay behind and just watch”, he says, delighted to see his 5th-grade students take a more hands-on approach in the photography workshop. With his time and resources stretched thin as it is, organizing an activity like this isn’t easy but now that he’s seen how it’s done and his school has received a camera, organising more activities like this is possible.
Learning by doing like this promotes creativity and critical thinking among children. Our children’s clubs and focus on peace education are opening up space for young students to grapple with and debate new topics, to conduct experiments, and to participate in projects that they’ve never tried before, all important components of accessing quality education.