Daring to dream: changing the future of children’s education in Vietnam

Today we learned that Vietnam was the first country in Asia to ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. This happened in 1990, also the year when Save the Children began their work in Vietnam.

They have been busy ever since and, on our first day of this IWitness adventure, we had the opportunity to see two projects they have been working on. The work of Save the Children in Vietnam centres on working with children and parents to address the exploitation and abuse of children.

Photo 1: Celebrating creativity with the winning team of the poster competition. Their theme was ‘World Peace’.
Photo 1: Celebrating creativity with the winning team of the poster competition. Their theme was ‘World Peace’.

The effects of the work they have done were loud and clear the moment we stepped out of our van, in front of the An Nhon Secondary School. The joyous roar of over a 1,000 children in this school, as we came through the gates, was overwhelming. Their excitement was contagious. We instantly realized that our presence here signalled something special (Photo 1). The school was prepared for festivities, the highlight of which was a speech from teacher Nguyen Ngoc Ky, who is known to young and old. He is a disabled man who has inspired legions of students and teachers throughout Vietnam to be more tolerant of disability and create a friendly learning environment. His message was simple but inspiring and included words for all of us to live by. Through six words, he painted the picture of what one can dream and aim for.

Mo – dream

Miet mai – work hard

Muu meo – be smart, be creative, have a few tricks up your sleeve

Manh ne – be decisive and strong

Mem mai – be flexible

May man – a little luck

Photo 2: Teacher Nguyen Ngoc Ky speaks to the children about the six ‘Ms’.
Photo 2: Teacher Nguyen Ngoc Ky speaks to the children about the six ‘Ms’.

The afternoon was a delight, as we moved on to visit the Nguyen Viet Xuan primary school. It was here that we had the honour to celebrate the opening of their new library. It is a space filled with books, where children can spend time reading in the morning before the school opens, or while waiting for their parents to pick them up after school. The joy of the children lifted our spirits as we sang and danced together in celebration.

Photo 3: The children of the Nguyen Viet Xuan primary school put on a play about the value of parental support in education.
Photo 3: The children of the Nguyen Viet Xuan primary school put on a play about the value of parental support in education.

There are no words that can truly paint the picture of the emotions that all these children brought out in us. The laughter and songs were a punctuation mark on the experience of seeing these children in an environment open to creativity and free of abusive discipline. This is all possible through the incredible work done by the dedicated group of amazing colleagues at Save the Children Vietnam.