Huynh Tan Canh, 38, would have led a different life if he had a popular choice as others, being an employee with a much higher salary at a big company.
But he did not do that just because of his self-imposed promise made when he was poor.
Canh, who came from the outskirt district of Can Gio, Ho Chi Minh City, has run into several challenges in life.
He had to sell a house after his first start-up project failed. He got a divorce partly because of that failure.
He once thought of the worst things that he could do to release himself from all of those troubles in the past.
Fortunately, he could start over and overcome such obstacles over time.
Trying to learn at any cost
Canh is now the co-founder and director of Vinh Danh Education Consulting Company with 10 employees.
Their 40-meter-square office has been based on the street of Chu Van An, Binh Thanh District, Ho Chi Minh City for the past four years.
Canh lives in the company’s headquarters to save money despite the space being rather small.
In fact, he does not care much about the limited conditions at the moment. He has just tried his best to figure out ways to raise the employees’ income and improve his virtual English teaching assistant, Riolish, to turn it into a more popular educational application.
Why did Canh choose to start up with a company teaching English rather than any other?
To answer this question, one may want to know more about what experiences he got when he was a poor resident trying to change his life after having a chance to study abroad.
Canh was well known as a good and diligent student when he was in college.
He graduated from both the National Academy of Public Administration and the University of Information Technology under the Vietnam National University Ho Chi Minh City.
Having two degrees, Canh still desires an opportunity to master English, a subject he found impossible to improve because of his living conditions before.
Knowing that he could secure a full scholarship to study at the Swinburne University of Technology in Australia, Canh believed that was a valuable opportunity that he was not allowed to miss.
For the whole year 2009, he traveled 60 kilometers by motorcycle from Can Gio to the center of Ho Chi Minh City three times a week to learn English. He was both working and learning like that for a year.
“I often went to my aunt’s house to eat something after school, then I went to bed, get up, and drive back to Can Gio at 4:30 am the next day to be able to go to work on time,” the man recalled.
“Sometimes I had to drive back right away, arriving at home at midnight strained me.”
During those days, Canh yearned badly for an application teaching English but he could not find any. He dreamed of creating an app that met the demands of the people like him.
He spent most of his salary on English tuition those days.
Thanks to his studiousness, Canh could get an overall IELTS score of 6.5, which was enough for him to get a scholarship to Australia.
He lost weight remarkably because of such efforts. He was just 48 kilograms at the time he went abroad to study.
Educational opportunities for everyone
Returning to Vietnam after obtaining a degree in Australia, Canh worked for a big company with a high salary.
He gave up the job after around three years, however, because of a promise before: helping poor children study English well.
It is never easy to launch a company.
Canh had to sell a house to pay the debts. He had to say goodbye not only to some of his co-workers but also to his wife, who could not continue sharing his dream of a start-up.
He underwent such a difficult period that he sometimes smoked much more than eating. He even thought of the worst options that he would take then.
“What pulled me out of such trouble was the support from my mother and some of my closest friends,” recounted Canh.
“I found myself still lucky with such encouragement; in addition to that, I still have to make good on my pledge to the poor children.”
Scholarships worth $440,000 awarded to 800 children who lost parents to COVID-19 in Vietnam
The Vietnamese Ministry of Education and Training, alongside two subsidiaries of Bitex Group, has announced it will award 800 scholarships worth a combined VND10 billion (US$440,238) over the next five years to local children who lost at least one parent to COVID-19.
The ministry, Binh Tay Import-Export JSC, and Anh Khue Watch JSC on Tuesday presented 400 scholarships to children who lost at least one of their parents since the beginning of the latest coronavirus outbreak in Ho Chi Minh City.
The remaining 400 scholarships will be awarded to children in Dong Nai province, Binh Duong Province, and other localities across the country.
“The scholarship will help pay for the education and daily needs of those children who lost one or both parents so that they can have some stability in their lives,” Dr. Tran Van Lam, an official from the education ministry, said at the sponsorship event on Tuesday.
“We hope it will reduce the burden and pain of losing their loved ones.”
The children supported by the program will receive need-based aid until they turn 15 years old, according to Nguyen Xuan Dung, chairman of Bitex Group.
A different level of sponsorship will be provided when they are between 15 and 18 years old.
|Students who lost loved ones to COVID-19 receive scholarships at a ceremony in Ho Chi Minh City, January 11, 2022. Photo: Tuoi Tre|
At Tuesday’s event, several of the scholarship recipients took the stage to tell their stories.
“After the death of my father, I was so sad,” said Nguyen Le Ngoc Anh, a third grader, whose grandmother and father died of COVID-19.
Anh is now living with a sick mother and a 15-month-old sibling.
“My mother and the whole family were very worried about me, but now many people seem to understand what I’m going through, so they help me to feel better,” she said.
Duong Tien Thanh, a ninth grader whose mother died of COVID-19 about five months ago, thanked the sponsors for consoling him and motivating him to study hard for a better future.
Ho Chi Minh City has documented more than 509,501 COVID-19 infections, including 20,018 deaths, out of the 1,659,113 patients recorded nationwide since the fourth virus wave hit Vietnam on April 27, 2021.
The latest coronavirus outbreak has taken away the parents of 1,517 students in the southern metropolis, according to the municipal Department of Education and Training’s statistics announced in September last year.
During the ongoing flare-up, more than 2,500 children across the country have lost parents, according to Suc Khoe & Doi Song (Health & Life), the mouthpiece of the Ministry of Health, which cited the Ministry of Labor, War Invalids, and Social Affairs last November.
More localities welcome students back to school in Vietnam
Monday saw students return to brick-and-mortar classrooms in more localities across Vietnam after they had taken online lessons at home for a long time due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Those localities include Ba Ria – Vung Tau Province, Ho Chi Minh City, Dong Nai Province, An Giang Province, Hanoi, and Bac Giang Province, where the outbreak has stabilized.
In Ba Ria – Vung Tau, ninth and 12th graders were the first school returnees pursuant to a temporary schedule that has been planned until February 12, including the Lunar New Year holiday from January 24 to February 6.
In Ho Chi Minh City, education authorities in Cu Chi District allowed seventh and eighth graders to come back to school on Monday.
Ninth, tenth, 11th, and 12th graders in Cu Chi District and all students of the six aforementioned grades in other districts had resumed offline learning since January 4.
In Dong Nai Province, ninth and 12th graders in Bien Hoa City pioneered in-person learning on Monday while students in other grades are expected to follow suit on February 14.
In An Giang Province, schools only reopened to certain ninth and 12th graders in Chau Phu District under a pilot scheme.
In Hanoi, 12th graders in areas at low and medium risk of COVID-19 transmission in Hai Ba Trung and Tay Ho Districts, as well as ninth and 12th graders in those at the same levels of COVID-19 safety in Thanh Tri District restarted in-person lessons on Monday.
In Bac Giang City under the namesake province, kindergartens, elementary schools, middle schools, high schools, and vocational schools have resumed offline operations since Monday.
Schools at all levels across Vietnam have intermittently closed and reopened in light of the complicated developments of the COVID-19 fourth wave since early May 2021.
Vietnam has reported 1,914,393 patients, including 31 imported Omicron infections, since the COVID-19 pandemic first hit the country in early 2020.
Health workers have given over 161 million vaccine doses since vaccination was rolled out nationwide on March 8, 2021.
More than 78.2 million of the country’s 98 million people have received at least one dose while upwards of 71.1 million have been injected twice.
English centers remain quiet notwithstanding permission to reopen in Ho Chi Minh City
Many English language centers in Ho Chi Minh City have remained closed even though local authorities already allowed the resumption of in-person learning earlier this week.
Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper has contacted some popular English centers such as VUS, ILA, and YOLA, whose consultants said they were unclear when in-person classes would resume even when Vietnam has switched to living safely with the coronavirus from a zero-COVID strategy, backed by a wide vaccine coverage rate.
Most courses are still organized online, but learners can register for offline classes in advance by taking placement tests virtually.
Now is not a good time
This is not a suitable time to welcome back learners as most students are busy with their first-term exams at school, a representative of SEAMEO Regional Training Center explained, adding that students will have a Lunar New Year break in about three weeks.
Do Thuy Hong, CEO of IvyPrep Education, said she is glad that foreign language centers are permitted to offer in-person classes, but IvyPrep Education is still concerned about the safety of students, staff, and the community given the COVID-19 pandemic.
The center is conducting a survey to assess the demand of students and their parents before making further decisions, Hong added.
It may apply a hybrid learning model, which includes 50 percent of online classes and 50 percent of in-person courses.
“We encourage fully-vaccinated middle school and high school students to take part in offline courses, while elementary school students should continue with remote learning,” Hong elaborated.
Most learners are not vaccinated
Aside from facilities running preparatory programs for English certificates such as the IELTS and TOEIC tests, most English centers in Ho Chi Minh City offer their courses to young learners, according to a manager of a center in Tan Binh District.
The manager said more than 65 percent of the learners at his facility are elementary school students, who have not received COVID-19 vaccination.
Meanwhile, learners and teachers must be inoculated with at least one dose to partake in offline classes at local centers, according to public health regulations.
“Unless authorities set out specific criteria for younger learners, we will have to wait until elementary school students are vaccinated to reopen,” the manager said.
A representative of APAX Leaders said that the center will maintain remote learning in the meantime as most of its learners are in seventh grade and lower.
|An English center remains closed in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Trong Nhan / Tuoi Tre|
Foreign teachers count the days
Raphael Galuz, a Frenchman who teaches English at a center in District 7, said he had had challenging months as strict social distancing measures resulted in his wage being halved.
His center had to lower tuition fees to discourage learners from quitting during the pandemic, and thus teachers’ payment also decreased, Galuz explained.
Chubby Vinaltino, a Singaporean teacher at an English center in Tan Phu District, said he is teaching only two classes, about eight hours, per week, which is four to five times lower than before the outbreak began on April 27 last year.
Vinaltino only received US$10 for an hour of online teaching, compared to the $15-20 per hour that he got from in-person instruction.
The teacher added that his income had shrunk by $70-80 per week, which made it difficult for him to pay for food, rent, and utilities.
“Three of my friends who are English teachers have had to move to cheaper places to live,” Vinaltino said.
Some even had to sell their own phone, he added.
Vinaltino said his only wish is that English centers welcome back learners as soon as possible, which will help foreign teachers solve their financial problems.
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