Ton Nu Quynh Duong, 66, started her first work of public philanthropy in 2010 and has since devoted her life to it.
Her philanthropic mission began with a child care home of Phu Thuong at Phu Thuong Commune, Phu Vang District, Thua Thien-Hue Province, located in central Vietnam.
“[The children in need] call me ‘mom’ and I consider them my children too,” Duong said.
“In many cases, I feel richer than a billionaire because of having more than one hundred children, who are more valuable than gold or silver.”
Making a dream come true
Inside a small kitchen of the Phu Thuong childcare center, a slim woman with grey hair is preparing meals for her thirty ‘children.’
The house is cozy despite the chilly weather outside.
As a former teacher, Duong graduated from the faculty of biology of the Hue University of Education.
During her teaching career, she worked at some of the high schools in Phu Loc District, Thua Thien-Hue
She is loved by many generations of students after more than thirty years of devotion and sympathy.
When she was a young teacher, Duong often felt concerned about the poor and studious children.
Many of them were forced out of school to earn a living.
At that time, the only way she could help them was to pay a visit to their home after school.
She tried to persuade their parents to let them return to the classroom by offering to help them with part of their tuition.
More than one hundred students were able to continue studying thanks to teacher Duong’s support.
Apart from teaching for extra hours, she spared a part from her humble monthly salary to provide them with notebooks, clothes, and textbooks.
“Many of the first generation of students have become successful and want to pay it forward,” Duong told Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper.
“So, they offer help to the students that suffer the same plight as them in the past.
“That generation has succeeded, and as a circle, many of them have returned to help difficult generations.
“My job is like sowing, it’s time for those seeds to germinate and I feel really happy about that.”
Around mid-2008, Duong accepted a job offer at Xuan Phu Childcare Center while she was working as a teacher at Phu Loc Middle School.
The underprivileged children’s living conditions at the center made her obsessed.
The children who should have been in the arms of their parents were left alone.
She told herself that if she had the opportunity and appropriate resources, she would spend the rest of her life with these children.
Retiring in 2010, Duong decided to participate in the childcare home of Phu Thuong to continue her dream of sharing with poor students.
The open house was established in 2007 from the contribution of the family of late Dr. Nguyen Dinh Thong and his relatives living in Australia with the aim of nurturing poor and studious students in the province.
“It is extremely hard and challenging, but I never regret choosing this job,” Duong confided.
“I don’t need anyone to praise me, just smile at the challenges and obstacles to move forward.”
Being both a teacher and mother
“Working here as ‘three in one,’ I am a teacher, a mother, and a psychologist,” Duong smiled when being asked what her main job in the center is.
With 30 years of experience in teaching, she has always used the most effective teaching methods.
In addition to mentoring the children by herself, she asked teachers from other schools to help the students.
Duong used her pension and the money she was given by her siblings to pay for other teachers.
It is Duong’s commitment and devotion that have taken many underprivileged students to various campuses such as the Hue University of Medicine and Pharmacy and the University of Danang – University of Science and Technology.
Huynh Phi Cong Hung, an eighth grader at Phu Thuong Middle School, said Duong not only taught him school subjects but also showed him how to be well-behaved.
There are always more than thirty students here and Duong takes good care of them all.
In Hung’s opinion, Duong was like his second mother.
To teacher Duong, most of her students are in the “most difficult” age.
Each of them is a question mark to her, which prompts her to pay more attention to their behavior, nutrition, and sleep.
“Every child here has a unique situation that I would deal with them depending on which circumstances they are in,” Duong said.
“I always fear that my improper behavior will ruin a person’s life.”
The care she gives has resulted in good children.
According to Duong, the open house has now become a center for gatherings and reunions on special occasions.
“Many children who have grown up here stood by me in a quiet way to help the following generations, which makes me truly happy,” Duong confided.
Ho Chi Minh City students to resume school in early March
All students in Ho Chi Minh City have been allowed to go back to school in early March as the COVID-19 pandemic has been put under control again in the southern metropolis.
The municipal People’s Committee on Wednesday issued a document stating that students and learners of local schools, universities, and other educational institutions will resume their normal classes on March 1.
The city’s Department of Education and Training and Department of Labor, War Invalids, and Social Affairs will provide local schools with guidance on pandemic prevention and control measures.
Students who have been to virus-hit areas will be required to fill out health declaration forms.
Stern penalties will be imposed upon those failing to declare their health status or violating rules on COVID-19 prevention and control.
All students, teachers, and other staff members will have to complete online health declaration on a daily basis.
Following the Lunar New Year holiday in mid-February, all students were required to switch to remote learning until the end of the month due to the complicated COVID-19 developments.
The city recorded 36 community-based COVID-19 cases between February 6 and 11.
A total of 35 locations in 10 districts and Thu Duc City were sealed off to prevent the disease from spreading further into the community.
As of Tuesday afternoon, lockdown had been lifted from all of these locations.
The municipal Department of Education and Training on the same day proposed that all students be allowed to return to school on March 1.
As Ho Chi Minh City daycare centers shuttered by COVID-19, babysitting services are in demand
Parents in Ho Chi Minh City are scrambling to find a nanny for their children after their kindergartens were closed due to COVID-19, which in turn drove hourly rates for the service to spike.
Communities of Vietnamese parents on Facebook are clamoring with job postings and advertisements on babysitting service, as both demand from parents and supply from preschool teachers are soaring during the current wave of COVID-19 infections in Vietnam.
Being mother to a four-year-old child who attends kindergarten in District 7 of Ho Chi Minh City, Nguyen Huong Ngoc said working parents in the city are struggling to get their childcare responsibility covered during the outbreak.
“After several discussions, we decided to look for a babysitter on a dedicated job matching group on Facebook,” Ngoc recalled.
One candidate sent us a private message, quoting VND450,000 (US$20) for 10 hours of childcare – a lunch break included.
The price was high as Ngoc saw it, but she accepted the quotation anyway.
“It would be great If the babysitter can teach coloring or singing, but I don’t expect too much,” she said.
Ngoc cannot really be sure of the babysitter’s itinerary either, so she has no choice but to believe the woman’s claim of “not travelling far from home” and entrust the child to her.
Likewise, Tieu Quyen from Ho Chi Minh City also have to settle for a high babysitting rate as her mother is too busy to take care of her three-year-old child, while the private kindergarten she sends her kid to is closed.
Quyen compared the rate in many Facebook groups and found the lowest quotation at VND350,000 ($15) per day, which will increase to VND400,000 ($17) per day later.
“I’m worried about transmission risks [from the babysitters.] Yet the best I can do is reminding the nannies to wear face masks and wash their hands before entering the house.”
Trustworthiness is key
While public kindergarten teachers have a stable base salary to fall back on during school closure, teachers at private preschools have to look for for seasonal babysitting jobs as their incomes are slashed, said Do Hoang Phuong Thao, a teacher at Be Ngoan Kindergarten in District 1, Ho Chi Minh.
“Private school teachers have to take unpaid leave, which is why they are picking up part-time babysitting jobs,” Thao said.
“They offer what parents need.”
Nguyen Thi Kim Uyen, deputy head of the bureau of education and training in Ho Chi Minh City’s District 10, shares the sentiment.
“This is a completely fair situation regarding the needs of parents and teachers,” Uyen said.
“Since the teacher is only babysitting, not teaching, we did not issue any official direction but a general guidance for COVID-19 prevention and medical declaration.”
Meanwhile, parents are recommended to discuss travel history with babysitters before hiring, or check out the candidates’ details at local health facilities if needed.
Others casts doubt on the rise of babysitting services, saying it might hinder the effort of COVID-19 prevention and control.
“Unregulated babysitting brings up many obstacles for epidemic prevention, as teachers have no grasp of the host family’s travel history, and vice versa,” Uyen said.
“Families should prioritize relatives and acquaintances for safety.”
Many schools in Vietnam to resume classroom learning earlier than planned
Several localities in Vietnam have changed their plans to allow students to return to schools after the Lunar New Year holiday about a week earlier than the original schedule.
K-12 and college students in the south-central provinces of Binh Thuan and Ninh Thuan and the Mekong Delta province of Dong Thap will go to school and take face-to-face lessons from February 22.
On the same date, ninth and 12th grade students in northern Thai Binh Province will also return to school, while students of other grades will continue online study until further notice.
In the southern province of Ba Ria – Vung Tau, the provincial Department of Education and Training on Friday said that offline classrooms will be organized for students who do not have access to online study from February 22.
Resuming in-person schooling way more earlier, all students in northern Nam Dinh Province and students of vocational schools in Dong Thap have come back to school since February 17.
Meanwhile, authorities in northern Bac Ninh Province and southern Binh Phuoc Province on Friday issued a notification requesting students to not return to school through February 28. Before that, these two provinces had planned to keep school closed until Sunday, February 21.
Elsewhere in such big cities as Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, students will study online until the end of this month.
Before the Lunar New Year holiday, which started around the end of January for most of students across Vietnam, students were slated to stay home until at least the end of this month or further notice from educational authorities to help curb the new coronavirus wave that has hit 13 Vietnamese localities since January 27.
Schools have to ensure COVID-19 prevention and control measures after their resumption.
Facing different school-reopening schedules in localities, the Ministry of Education and Training has planned to build corresponding timetables for the current 2020-21 school year based on the experience from the previous school year, according to director of the ministry’s secondary education department Nguyen Xuan Thanh.
“If the outbreak lingers until March and all students still cannot return to school, the department will delay the end of the school year,” said Thanh.
“The schedule for the  national high school graduation exam and the entrance exams at other levels will also have to be adjusted, with the former may be held in separate times as in 2020, if any localities are still unable to suppress the virus outbreak,” he added.
Schooling in Vietnam has experienced interruptions between offline and online modes since January last year when COVID-19 first hit the country.
The latest wave of infections since January 27 has seen a total of 770 locally-transmitted cases logged in 13 provinces and cities.
Among them, 590 patients have been reported in Hai Duong Province, 60 in Quang Ninh Province, 27 in Gia Lai Province, 35 in Hanoi, five in Bac Ninh Province, two in Bac Giang Province, 36 in Ho Chi Minh City, two in Hoa Binh Province, one in Ha Giang Province, three in Dien Bien Province, six in Binh Duong Province, one in Hai Phong, and two in Hung Yen Province.
The national tally stood at 2,362 COVID-19 cases as of Saturday morning, with 1,627 recoveries and 35 deaths, according to the Ministry of Health’s data.
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