Nguyen Thin Xuan, head of the UNESCO Illiteracy Fighters Club (Source: VNA)

Hanoi (VNA) –
Some Vietnamese men have devoted themselves to helping their peers become educated as they are well aware of the opportunities that education offers for anyone to improve their knowledge and achieve their desires.

Retired teacher continues to write future

“Illiteracy is not a problem of the past as many people think but remains a pressing issue for Vietnam today, especially in considering that the country is integrating internationally,” said 89-year-old Nguyen Thin Xuan, head of the UNESCO Illiteracy Fighters Club.

Born in Dong Hoa commune, Dong Son district, the central province of Thanh Hoa, Xuan has spent nearly 40 years fighting illiteracy, beginning in 1943 when he joined the national language dissemination drive.

After his retirement, the teacher and other officials, who were involved in the “mass education” campaign, established the UNESCO Illiteracy Fighters Club. The “mass education” campaign was initiated by the Provisional Government of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam on September 8, 1945.

With members ranging in age from 70 to more than 100, the club aims to eradicate illiteracy and raise intellectual standards in non-traditional ways, he said.

“Because of our old age, we can’t reach illiterate persons the same way we did 71 years ago, so we use our experience in tackling illiteracy and give our opinions on education,” said the teacher.

After its inception, the 229-member club convened a meeting to give feedback on the Resolution adopted at the 8 th National Party Congress in 1996 and another Resolution of the second meeting of the Party Central Committee (eighth tenure) in early 1997, focusing on education.

Each day, the old man surfs the internet to stay up to date on education at home and abroad, writes his memoirs, and builds projects on illiteracy elimination, which serve as teaching references for the education sector.

He has written up to 500 articles touching upon different aspects of education, through which he has suggested solutions to issues facing the sector.

In July 2016, the teacher sent a letter to Minister of Education and Training Phung Xuan Nha urging him to pay more attention to informal education, explaining that illiteracy remains a headache in many localities, especially remote and ethnic minority-inhabited areas.

He underlined the need to conduct a national survey of illiterate people aged between 8 and 60, build a staff of talented and competent officials to supervise illiteracy eradication in localities, get funds for the work, and optimise the leadership of the Party, State and the Vietnam Fatherland Front to step up these efforts.

Minister Nha pledged that he will continue to instruct localities to pay more heed to fighting illiteracy, especially among ethnic minority groups, women, children and those living in difficult circumstances.

He also promised to hold regular meetings with the Ministry of Education and Training’s Department of Continuing Education to discuss the issue.

The old teacher, with his sparkling eyes and enthusiastic wiry voice, described himself and other club members as red ripening silkworms that still want to spin their last filaments to contribute to education.

Man devotes youth to library revolution

41-year-old Nguyen Quang Thach initiated the “Books for rural areas of Vietnam” programme, which has become the first Vietnamese programme to receive the UNESCO King Sejong Literacy Prize.

Nguyen Quang Thach at the UNESCO's award ceremony (Photo courtesy of Nguyen Quang Thach)

The prize, which consists of two awards, recognises the work of governments, governmental agencies, and NGOs in the fight against illiteracy. It is named in honour of King Sejong, who created the native Korean alphabet ‘Hangul’ more than 500 years ago.

Thach’s programme forms part of a campaign aiming to establish reading habits in rural areas by setting up libraries, helping improve the general knowledge of rural people.

Born into a family of teachers in the central province of Ha Tinh, Thach has had access to books since his childhood. The man has spent 20 years studying library designs and applying library models with his first three libraries set up in 2007 in the northern province of Thai Binh.

In 2010, he founded the Centre for Knowledge Assistance and Community Development and began a 1,750 kilometre tour from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City to raise funds for the programme.

To date, more than 9,000 small libraries have been set up in 26 provinces nationwide. The program is expected to be replicated in other localities to bring books to as many as 20 million people in rural areas by 2020.

The programme has also provided hands-on training to operate the libraries and encouraged reading.

Before hearing about the award, Thach sent a letter to several Indian organisations expressing his wish to roll out the programme in India.

“Illiteracy elimination means helping people access knowledge to catch up with development,” he said, calling for efforts to lay a foundation for a world of democracy, peace, humanity and innovation by empowering children worldwide to read books.-VNA