Maths replaces church masses in Vietnam


A Vietnamese parish priest came to the aid of students from ethnic minorities who could not afford the necessary materials for online learning.

Dressed in their school uniforms, more than 100 students take online classes initiated by Father Dominic Tran Quang Vinh at Gan Reo Church in Duc Trong District of Lam Dong Province in the Central Highlands.

Students aged 11 to 15 are from An Hiep Public School, which has been closed due to the Covid-19 outbreak and has been on online classes since September 20.

Father Vinh said the students came from K’ho, Chil and Ma ethnic families who could not afford computers, smartphones and internet services.

“To meet the needs of students during the pandemic, we immediately borrowed computers, televisions and speakers from local families to arrange online classes for them on time,” he said.

He also called on students who have computers to take them to church so that they can share them with other students.

Teachers and students walk the airwaves to work with each other thanks to church support

The 41-year-old priest said he had installed a high-speed internet line and used catechism facilities within the church grounds for online classes as religious activities were suspended to contain the contagion.

On the first day, 107 students attended the church for online classes and many more attended the following days.

Father Vinh said that the seventh and ninth graders study in the morning, while the sixth and eighth graders study in the afternoon. They are given face masks and disinfectants and are divided into groups, each with 5-7 students in a class to maintain social distancing.

Local education authorities require online courses to have a maximum of 12 students.

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“I check the devices daily, visit the students and encourage them to work hard,” the priest said.

Local nuns prepare lessons and turn on computers and televisions before the students start their lessons. They also provide them with fruit, cakes and drinking water during breaks.

Nguyen Huu Minh, the principal of the school, said he owed the parish a debt of gratitude for creating favorable and secure conditions for students to study online.

Minh said the school lacks study equipment and only equips eight rooms with internet and computers for teachers to teach online. The school has 634 students, but a third come from ethnic families without electronic equipment.

“Teachers and students are walking in the air to work together thanks to the support of the church,” he said, adding that the school’s deputy headmaster supervises his students studying at the church on a daily basis.

Father Vinh said the parish will continue to serve students regardless of their faith until their school is open again.

He hopes benefactors will donate computers and televisions to serve long-term student online work.

The parish has 1,300 members who grow rice, coffee and vegetables for a living. They have small farms and therefore have to work in factories for more income.

Schools in many provinces affected by Covid-19 switched to online courses to protect students from infection

Father Vinh said students in a village five miles from the parish still couldn’t take the online classes because they lacked equipment.

The priest, who was assigned to the parish in 2016, said he gave high priority to educating ethnic students. They receive food and private lessons in certain subjects by sisters and teachers at the church after school.

Thanks to the determined efforts of the parish, more ethnic students are entering secondary school and the number of dropouts has decreased considerably.

The parish has some 140 Catholic students studying in secondary and secondary schools this year.

Redemptorist Father Joseph Le Quang Uy, who is active in social activities in Ho Chi Minh City, called on people to donate second-hand laptops to homes for orphans and disabled children who cannot afford to buy computers for their studies online.

Father Uy said he received 10 laptops and delivered them to five homes.

Schools in many provinces affected by Covid-19 have switched to online courses to protect students from infection.

Last month, Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh launched a nationwide program to provide one million computers and Internet access to 7.35 million students.

The children of Thanh Tam Home in Ho Chi Minh City are happy to receive a laptop. (Photo: Father Joseph Le Quang Uy)

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