For the children of this poor village with only a dozen shacks, which was situated on the top of a mountain and fifteen or twenty kilometers away from the district center, going to higher-level schools was something strange, far-fetched, and even extravagant. Nevertheless, it was still what they always desired. Only by going to school did they receive education... For C., going back to school was even more impossible as he could never walk again after having a high fever at the age of 2. His parents felt the pain whenever they saw their child crouching in an old wheelchair donated in a volunteer campaign by the province. They could not do anything except blaming destiny for stealing the bright future of their innocent child.
As time went by, C. finally reached the age to start school. However, going to school was something only in his dream because there were too many obstacles to overcome. His family was poor, dirt poor! His parents had to work hard in the fields for the family of six. Although his siblings all know how to help their parents, the hunger is always there. Sometimes, they only had some wild vegetables, spring water, and white rice for the meals. When their basic need for food is not satisfied, how could they think of pursuing education? Besides the financial stress, it was more than four kilometers from home to school. As a child who was unable to walk, would miracles happen? Just like that, reality shattered the small dream of the child, making it unfulfilled. C.'s brother and sister were only a couple of years older. They adored him and often taught C. to read, write and do math when they did not work in the fields. C. was so smart and bright that he learned very quickly. Day by day, tutored by his siblings, C. practiced rhyming, writing, doing math, and taking care of himself when there was no help from relatives. Although there were times when his whole body ached and his arms were tired, the smile never seemed to disappear on his face.
In spite of knowing their child’s eagerness to learn and appreciating the opportunity to learn, the parents simply thought that they were happy as long as the child was healthy and no longer tormented by pain. His parents never dared to think that he had the opportunity to go to school like other children, because the family was deprived, and the child was... However, after two months and then three months, a year and then two years, the extraordinary efforts and energy of the little boy changed how people viewed him. His studiousness was therefore an example to the whole village and to its children. Good news spread far and wide, he gained the attention of everyone, including teacher H.
As a young teacher, after graduating from university with a major in pedagogy, H. left the city to apply for a job in this highland. Knowing C.'s admirable story, teacher H. scrutinized and knew that he was over 8 years old yet had never been to school. Through only a few times of meeting and talking, she knew that C. was small but very understanding. C. felt compassion for his parents as they worked so hard to earn money yet couldn’t afford school. Plus, he could not go to school on his own. C. understood all the difficulties his family was facing, so he never told them about his dream. Although C. managed to hide it, teacher H. could tell for sure how much his desire to go to school was, which stirred her conscience and charged her with professional duties as a teacher. Thus, the young teacher started convincing C.'s parents to let him go to school to study and make friends, regardless of the obstacles or hurdles that were ahead of them.
And it was not easy to do so. When she first mentioned the issue, C.'s parents insisted that they were too poor to make it possible, that "how would he go to school while we couldn’t even afford a full meal?", that the distance from home to the nearest school was more than four kilometers, and that he couldn’t go to school by himself, nor could the family members take him to school and take care of him... Through several conversations, teacher H. could tell the burden in the eyes of the ethnic couple who could barely speak Vietnamese. Aware of the obstacles the family was facing, she researched relevant policies and laws in hopes of helping C.’s dream come true. Every few days, she arranged to pay a visit to his family, giving them legal advice on the rights of children in education, especially those with disabilities as well as the family's responsibility for ensuring and creating favorable conditions for children with disabilities to study. The most important thing was to help C.'s parents realize that they and other families of the same situation were not alone in the journey to education; instead, they always had the support from the State via policies on tuition fee exemption and reduction and support for learning expenses for children with disabilities from poor and near-poor households besides the support from schools. When there was a language barrier, teacher H. often asked members of the local Youth Union to translate her words so that his parents could understand it thoroughly. After perceiving that the Government would provide financial aid, they were very happy but also felt guilty for not fulfilling their parental responsibilities in creating favorable conditions for C. to study. Besides, teacher H. also expressed her willingness to take C. from home to school and vice versa after a week at the boarding school on the motorbike that she bought with her savings while she was a university student. Eventually, after a year of perseverance and with her sincerity, she successfully convinced C.'s family to let him go to school.
However, due to delaying his starting age for school, C. was four years older than the age to enter first grade. Their hope was quickly gone. Fate once again challenged the little boy. His parents felt regret and sorry for him. If only they had known the rights to learn of children with disability, the obligations of families in sending their children to school, and the State's support for cases like C., perhaps he would have been able to go to school, study, and develop comprehensively like other children of the same age.
Fortune smiles on C. and his family. In order to create favorable conditions and remove obstacles hindering disadvantaged children like C., at the end of 2020, the Minister of Education and Training promulgated the Charter of Primary Schools, including regulations on cases of those entering first grade 3 years later than prescribed. As soon as she knew about that, she contacted the school, instructed C.'s parents to complete the application, and asked for permission from the Department of Education and Training to allow C. go to school. The real life miracle occurred when the head of the Department of Education and Training accepted C.'s admission to the local primary school under the strategy of inclusive education.
On the day of receiving the information, C. was filled with happiness and bursted into tears. Those were tears of hardship, self-inferiority, and self-pity of a special but energetic child. From then on, disabilities would no longer be an obstacle on the way of children like C. to learn and integrate into the community. It had been a long time since he had truly smiled and lived a life full of hope. His hard work and perseverance along with the dedication of teachers like H. has really made miracles happen!
* Clause 1, Article 13 of the 2019 Law on Education providing for rights to education of all citizens (including persons with disabilities):
“1. Learning is the right and responsibility of every citizen. Every citizen, regardless of ethnicity, religions, beliefs, gender, exceptionalities, family background, socio-economic status, has equal rights of access to learning opportunities.
3. The State shall give priority in enabling extremely disadvantaged children as per the Law on Children, learners with disabilities as per the Law on Persons with Disabilities, learners of poor households and near-poor households to exercise their rights and obligations to study.
* Clause 3, Article 28 of the Law on Persons with Disabilities stipulating the responsibilities of families in creating favorable conditions for children with disabilities to study:
“3. … Families shall create favorable conditions and opportunities for their members with disabilities to study and develop according to their personal capabilities.”
* Clauses 1 and 2, Article 27 of the Law on Persons with Disabilities stipulating on the State’s support in education for persons with disabilities:
“1. The State shall create conditions for persons with disabilities to study in conformity with their own needs and capabilities.
2. Persons with disabilities may be admitted to school at ages higher than the ages prescribed for general education; are given priority in enrolment; are entitled to exemption from or reduction of certain study subjects or educational contents and activities beyond their personal capabilities; are entitled to exemption from or reduction of tuition fees, training expenses, and other contributions; and are considered for provision of scholarships and learning equipment.”
* Clause 1, Article 33 of the Charter of Primary Schools (issued together with Circular No. 28/2020/TT-BGDDT dated September 4, 2020 of the Minister of Education and Training) regulating the schooling age of children with disabilities:
“1. The age of entering first grade is 06 years old and calculated in years. Children with disabilities, children with physical or mental developmental disorders, children living in areas with extremely difficult socio-economic conditions, children of ethnic minorities, orphans without support, children brought home from abroad, and children of foreigners studying and working in Vietnam may enter first grade at an older age than prescribed but not exceeding 03 years. In case of exceeding 03 years, the decision shall be made by the head of the Department of Education and Training.”