As Vietnam celebrates Teacher’s Day, meet the man who won’t abandon his jungle school

By Ngoc Thanh   November 19, 2017 | 07:43 pm PT
Bui Van Thuan has spent a decade crossing rough streams and learning a tribal language to keep his students in class.

Pa My Primary School in Dien Bien Province in Vietnam's northern highlands has 11 campuses, and Huoi Lui 2 is the most remote. The school is separated from the center of Pa My Commune by 22 kilometers (13.7 miles) of rough streams and mountain paths.


The remote campus has only three students, one in first grade and two in second grade, who learn together in the same classroom with their teacher Bui Van Thuan, whose hometown is 700 kilometers away in Thanh Hoa Province.


The children live across a big stream, and Thuan has to pick them up by raft to bring them to school every time it pours. The 37-year-old teacher has been doing his job for more than 10 years.


Thuan also has to pay regular visits to their parents every harvest season as they insist their children stay at home to take care of their younger siblings. “I had to learn to speak their language so I could negotiate with them,” Thuan said of his ethnic students’ families.


His students come from the H’Mong tribal group and did not speak a word of Vietnamese in their early years. Thuan said teaching them Vietnamese requires a lot of patience and sign language.


Thuan said there have been discouraging moments when he wanted to quit, but he's refused to give up.


The students in their worn-out clothes are a strong reason Thuan has stayed. 

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