News / Asia

Free Language School in Vietnam Teaches Generosity

Pham Thi Trang, right, studies Japanese at a free language school set up by a street vendor in Hanoi, Vietnam, Aug. 7, 2014.
Pham Thi Trang, right, studies Japanese at a free language school set up by a street vendor in Hanoi, Vietnam, Aug. 7, 2014.
Marianne Brown

For a few hours most afternoons, you can find 24-year-old Pham Minh Dap selling balloons and children’s toys outside Hoa Binh park in central Hanoi.

He has worked as a street vendor here for five years, along with roughly 30 of his relatives who come from a poor village of rice farmers in Thanh Hoa province. Each day he makes about $5.

"Every Sunday morning, I go to Dong Xuan market, I buy the balloons," Pham said. "I bring home and put the air in the balloon and hang it on my bicycle. The customers,  they see and they buy."

Pham Minh Dap, 24, sells balloons and toys to fund a free language school in Hanoi, Vietnam.Pham Minh Dap, 24, sells balloons and toys to fund a free language school in Hanoi, Vietnam.
x
Pham Minh Dap, 24, sells balloons and toys to fund a free language school in Hanoi, Vietnam.
Pham Minh Dap, 24, sells balloons and toys to fund a free language school in Hanoi, Vietnam.

Dap has another job, too. Earlier this year, he and his brother set up Stand By You, a language center with volunteer teachers offering free lessons to poor students in Hanoi, a place where education is often seen as a way out of poverty.

Rent and other expenses add up to around $500, or 10 million dong, each month. Dap contributes around $150 from his earnings as a street vender and private-language tutoring. His brother matches that with money earned from his work as a secretary. The rest comes from friends and a fee of 25-to-50 cents, or 5,000 to 10,000 dong, per class for advanced students.

Free foreign-language training

The aim is to help students who would otherwise have no opportunity to learn a foreign language. Most come from agricultural communities and face challenges in covering city rents, food and other expenses.

It’s "here just for students who don’t have money," Dap said of the free school. "… Their parents are farmers. Farmers are really poor in Vietnam."

While the percentage of impoverished Vietnamese people has fallen from 58 percent in 1993 to 14.5 percent as of 2008, according to the World Bank, rapid economic growth has contributed to rising inequality in income and opportunities.

But unemployment among college graduates remains a persistent problem, with one in 10 university graduates unemployed, according to local media.

Last year, Pham Vu Luan, minister of education and training, blamed their unemployment on universities failing to teach the kinds of skills employers need. 

Language skills aid employment prospects

Dap says employers want good language skills.

"We know that only language can develop this country. We need language [so] students can work with foreigners and they have a good chance to go outside Vietnam and they can come back to help build this country."

But with language schools charging up to $150 per course, opportunities for poor people are limited. Dap himself is self-taught.

The original plan was to offer English classes, but the majority of volunteers offered to teach Japanese, so the school now offers both languages, Dap says.

"Twenty-six Japanese classes are running. … But we only have four rooms, [so] we run from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m." to accommodate them all.

Volunteers benefit

Ten volunteers teach at the school. One is university student Ta Khanh Huyen, 20, who is studying Japanese.

She said she heard about the school through friends who had studied there. She offered to teach Japanese to “give something back,” adding that the environment is sociable and has helped improve her Japanese speaking skills.

Pham Thi Trang is one of the school's 600 students. The 24-year-old accounting student, whose parents work in a Ha Nam province market, is in her final year of studies.

She earns about $50 a month from a part-time job and her parents give her another $75, barely enough to get by in the city. She thinks improving her language skills will enhance her earning potential.

Demand for the school is growing. Around 1,000 people are on a student waiting list and 10 others have offered to teach for free.

Dap said he hopes to raise money through a crowd-funding campaign to pay for a bigger place so he can open more classes.

You May Like

On Everest, Helicopters Rescue Stranded Climbers

Choppers transport some of more than 100 mountaineers trapped after deadly quake, avalanches More

Video Ten Years After Riots, France Searches for Answers to Neglected Suburbs

In 2005, a Paris suburb exploded into violence after two teenagers were electrocuted as they hid from police; since then, somethings have changed, others not More

US, Japan Announce Historic Revision of Defense Cooperation Guidelines

Nations say new guidelines will be 'cornerstone for peace and security' in Asia-Pacific region while also serving as 'platform for a more stable international security environment' More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
‘Angel of the Migrants’ Helps Desperate Syrians Arriving in Europei
X
Henry Ridgwell
April 26, 2015 10:36 PM
Waves of migrants are continuing to arrive on the shores of southern Italy from North Africa. After their dangerous journey across the Mediterranean, they face an unknown future in Europe. In the Sicilian city of Catania there is an activist dedicated to helping the refugees on their journey.
Video

Video ‘Angel of the Migrants’ Helps Desperate Syrians Arriving in Europe

Waves of migrants are continuing to arrive on the shores of southern Italy from North Africa. After their dangerous journey across the Mediterranean, they face an unknown future in Europe. In the Sicilian city of Catania there is an activist dedicated to helping the refugees on their journey.
Video

Video Ten Years After Riots, France Searches for Answers to Neglected Suburbs

January’s terrorist attacks and fears of more to come are casting a spotlight on France’s neglected suburbs. Home to many immigrants, and sometimes hubs of crime, they were rocked by rioting a decade ago. Lisa Bryant visited the Paris suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois, where the 2005 violence first broke out, and has this report about what has changed and what has not.
Video

Video Gay Marriage Goes Before US Supreme Court

This week, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments on whether gay people have a constitutional right to marriage. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the case could lead to the nationwide legalization of same-sex marriage, or a continuation of the status quo in which individual states decide whether to recognize gay unions.
Video

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.

VOA Blogs