Rural students climb hills to access online courses

Long Mon, one of the most remote towns in the mountainous Minh Long district, is home to many H’Re ethnic communities. Students here have had to start a new academic year via distance learning, even though internet access is not widely available.

At 6 a.m., ninth grade Dinh Thi Tiep picked up his father’s phone and walked half a kilometer up the hill to his village to look for blood. Her younger sister, who is in fourth grade, grabbed her mother’s old phone and followed her up the hill.

Tiep’s house is in the village of Ca Xen, where the terrain is hilly, with many bumpy roads. Any house located in a concave area cannot receive a 4G signal.

Dinh Thi Tiep attends an online class on a hill. Photo by VnExpress / Thuong Hoang

In the first lesson, the teacher came to her home to guide her on how to install e-learning software. The signal was not stable, so she struggled endlessly to connect. Once she “entered” the classroom, poor connectivity caused blurry images and unclear sound.

The next day, Tiep brought the phone up the hill and chose the location with the strongest connectivity. Since then, she hasn’t missed a lesson.

“The first period starts at 7 am. So I get up an hour early and go up the hill looking for a signal,” she said.

Beside Tiep and his sister, many students in Long Mon Township also have to climb slopes and hills to look for a strong internet signal to study online.

Last week, Truong Quoc Dat, director of the primary and secondary school for ethnic minorities, said the school has 228 students, many of whom do not have the proper materials to study. But when the education sector unified to force e-learning, the school always tried to find ways to implement lessons.

“Teachers do their best to help students get excited about studying,” he said.

According to him, his school implements distance learning for students between the third and the ninth grade. Those who do not have a phone are divided into groups to study with other classmates.

Dinh Van Tuat (L) and Dinh Thi Ni during an online course.  Photo by VnExpress / Pham Linh

Dinh Van Tuat (L) and Dinh Thi Ni attend an online lesson. Photo by VnExpress / Pham Linh

Dinh Van Tuat, a seventh grader, visits Dinh Thi Ni’s house every afternoon so that they can take online lessons together, as the boy said his parents do not have smartphones.

During the stormy season, whenever there is thunder, school teachers often remind children to be careful of electrical equipment.

On September 20, while Tuat and Ni’s teacher was teaching, the school suffered a power failure and the online course had to shut down.

Online courses pose many challenges for students in rural areas and many lack the appropriate electronic equipment. Therefore, the school allows first and second graders to watch lectures on television. In addition, teachers visit each house to provide lesson plans.

Dinh KaMach places the lesson plan in a plastic bottle in front of a student house.  Photo by VnExpress / Pham Linh

Dinh KaMach places the lesson plan in a plastic bottle in front of a student’s house. Photo by VnExpress / Pham Linh

When students and parents are away from home, teachers place lesson plans in a plastic tube cut from plastic bottles, much like sending “secret letters.”

“Whether children study online or not, we always distribute lectures and study materials to ensure that every child can enjoy the opportunity to study,” said Dinh KaMach, a teacher in the area.

According to the Ministry of Education and Training of Quang Ngai Province, this school year, the province has 66,000 students who cannot study online. As many face internet connectivity and device shortages, the education sector needs to roll out this form of education to all localities.

The VnExpress Hope Foundation’s “Student Computers” program aims to provide 3,300 in-situ students with tablets, laptops and computers, helping them access online education. For more information, please refer to this link.

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