GIA LAI — Captain Ngô Sỹ Thưởng is working as a police officer at Gia Trung Prison in the Central Highlands province of Gia Lai but he is more well known among the prisoners as a teacher who instructs illiterate prisoners to practise reading and writing in Vietnamese.
In 1993, after graduating from the police school, Thưởng became a police officer at the prison. He started a literacy class for prisoners in 2007 and has been teaching them ever since.
Illiterate prisoners take a two-year literacy class before they are qualified to start at primary school level. Every week, they attend four classes, each of which lasts for eight hours, to learn how to read and write.
Teaching special students is such a difficult task for Thường but one he has fulfilled over the past 10 years. Hundreds of prisoners are able to read and write after thanks to Thưởng.
“When I took on the duty, I was quite confused because I had never taken any teaching skill course,” he said.
“The students are also very special.
“Ages of students vary from teenagers to more than 60 years old. Some of them have never learned literacy but some others finished grade 3. It is very difficult to plan the lessons.
“Many students are from ethnic minority groups and can not speak Vietnamese. I am lucky to have my wife who is a teacher help me with teaching skills and planning the lessons. Every year I take teaching skill courses to improve my abilities.”
This is not only a literacy class but it also teaches prisoners positive lessons in their process of rehabilitation.
He added: “Through each lesson, I always try to inspire them with positive affection among people and good behaviour in daily life so that they will have the determination to improve themselves and reintegrate into society.”
Nguyễn Duy Côi, now in his 60s, was unable to read and write because he dropped out of school at the age of seven.
Côi said “The teacher is very caring. I hope I can learn to read and write so that I can return to society to be able to read books and newspapers or at least to sign my name.”
Prisoner Nguyễn Văn Trụ, 26, who has taken the class for six months, said: “Many laughed at me because I was illiterate. I felt very upset. Thanks to teacher Thưởng, I am able to read and write and understand more good things about life. Literacy will help me a lot after I reintegrate into society.” — VNS
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