Kindergarten teachers miss work and wages

By Binh Minh   May 14, 2021 | 03:29 pm GMT+7
The Covid-19 outbreak has Hanoi’s kindergarten teachers hard at many levels. They miss their work, the children and are finding it difficult to make ends meet.

The Hanoi Department of Education and Training told two million students from kindergarten to high school levels to stay at home from May 4 onwards because of the latest Covid-19 outbreak in the country.

A week after the school’s closure, Dang Thi Mai, a private kindergarten teacher in Ha Dong District, had not dare return to her home in Hat Mon Commune, Phuc Tho District as several suspected cases were reported there, including her younger sister.

Having run out of money, she sticks to the room in a boarding house, using the time to improve her English skills. She also explores different teaching methods as she waits for the day she can return to work.

Badly missing her students, Mai sometimes contacts the parents of her students via the social messaging app Zalo to check up on the kids and hear their voices. When the children ask when they can return to school, her eyes well up and she cries silently.

A boy returns to his kindergarten after a three-month Covid break, May 11, 2020. Photo by VnExpress/Giang Huy.

A boy returns to his kindergarten after a three-month Covid break, May 11, 2020. Photo by VnExpress/Giang Huy.

Broke and unable to teach, Mai does not dare to return home. She worries about the well being of her relatives, but she is still stuck. Mai usually gets a monthly salary of about VND5 million ($217), but since the outbreak at the beginning of last year, her school has had to close two branches and cut the staff’s salary.

Mai has only dared to ask her school to give her VND1 million in salary advance. She and her roommate, who is also a preschool teacher, live as frugally as possible.

During the previous outbreaks, Mai and her colleagues received a lunch allowance of VND15,000 per person. But, the school did not have any financial backup plan for the complicated nature of the latest outbreak. She tried selling goods online several times but sales have never taken off. She posted a job search on Facebook, also in vain.

"I feel sad that I have been working for nearly 10 years and I have not given my parents any money; and now, I have to ask my mother for help. When I get into a corner, I have to ask my family in the countryside to send some money."

The 28-year-old teacher said that the pandemic presence has been constant for almost two years, causing her school to close down many times. But she had never thought of changing jobs because she is still passionate about it. She said that if school closures keep extending for much longer and the situation in her rural district is better, she would return home.

"Hat Mon village has the profession of making paper, I will go back to help my family and then think more about my future."

Somewhat better off than Mai is Thanh Giang, who has some additional income after investing with her cousin in opening a small shop selling portable consumer goods from Japan.

The 29-year-old teacher from Thanh Hoa Province has many relatives doing business in Hanoi. But since she loves children, she wants to stick with her profession and thinks of doing business as a side job.

Outside of teaching at a kindergarten in Thanh Xuan District, Giang sells goods on Facebook and helps out her cousin on weekends. When she doesn’t have to teach, Giang goes to the store every morning and returns to her rented room at night. Income from the side business is not much, but it helps her make ends meet, a situation much better than her colleagues.

Giang is not married, has a simple diet and is not a spendthrift, so she is not too stressed out about the economy. Her parents keep calling and telling her to go home, but she does not dare to because passenger buses would travel to Ha Nam, where cases were reported. She also worries that she might affect the whole village if she travels with an infected person.

When the school closed because of the outbreak early last year, she went home; and when she returned to work, she had to borrow money from her mother. After a few such breaks, her parents wanted her to return to teach at a nearby public kindergarten, settle down and get married. However, she was determined to return to Hanoi and work even harder.

"The situation is difficult so I can only wait, spend as little as possible and try to maintain my store."

Parents fill out forms as teachers sort students into classes before Covid-19 sample collection, Hanoi, February 1, 2020. Photo by VnExpress/Giang Huy.

Parents fill out forms as teachers sort students into classes before Covid-19 sample collection, Hanoi, February 1, 2020. Photo by VnExpress/Giang Huy.

‘I want to cry’

When she heard the announcement that students should stop going to school starting May 4, Thanh Cam, a kindergarten teacher at a private school in My Dinh District, could only sigh.

She is worried that the whole family will have to survive on her husband's meager salary in the coming days. School closure means that she won’t get her salary of VND4.5 million a month.

Normally, if she does not have to spend on caring for her children when they fall sick, the couple's income is enough to cover their family expenditures. But when their two children fall sick, each medical examination costs them around VND700,000-800,000.

"Whenever I think about the rent of VND2.5 million per month I have to pay when my children are sick, I want to cry," Cam said.

During the outbreak last year, she and her kids went back to their paternal home in Ha Nam and lived with their grandparents. This time, their hometown has recorded several cases, so the couple and their children are staying in Hanoi. Cam wants to find a part-time job, but there’s no one would look after her children; and she is also afraid of spreading the virus. The family has tightened their spending, focusing mostly on food.

Last year, the kindergarten where Cam worked gave each teacher some money for sustenance. But the school is also in a difficult situation, so it has said it can only provide financial support one or two months. She has been looking forward to the help this year, but has not received it yet.

"We need money for daily expenses. I don’t have any income at the moment. I hope the Covid-19 situation will be controlled soon so I am able to return to work."

According to the Hanoi Department of Education and Training, the city has more than 3,220 non-public education units with nearly 46,000 teachers and other staff.

During the outbreak last year, 17,580 teachers and staff of 1,310 non-public kindergartens, preschools, primary schools, and high schools were not given any salary support. About 14,000 teachers and staff of non-public schools were supported with less than 50 percent of the salary.

On May 4, Cam went to her school to put away toys and beds since she doesn’t know when it will open again. Cam has thought of quitting her job, but having to take care of children makes it difficult.

"But, after this wave, I have to think about switching jobs again."

 
 
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