Located at the end of a series of classrooms in Thu Duc City, which is under Ho Chi Minh City, a small class named The French Bakery has become home for many poor students with a desire for a better future.
Despite its small space, the class provides poor students with a valuable opportunity to secure a high-level professional skill: how to make bread.
The class, located inside the Thu Duc College of Technology, was launched with the aim of helping needy students live by themselves after finishing the training course.
“We are happy to find that the students have a passion and gain fundamental and professional knowledge in bread making from France just after being trained here for one year and a half,” said Hardiville Thi Thuy Van, country representative from the European Institute of Cooperation and Development (IECD).
“We also found that if the students are confident in communicating with others, they can make up their minds on their own.”
Choosing to be a laborer
It was 3:00 pm, six young students were squeezing white wheat flour on a big table made of stainless steel.
They were making croissants, one of the most popular types of French bread.
They are students taking part in a training course on making bread at The French Bakery.
The class, arranged in a modest space, is divided into two separate rooms equipped with modern appliances and baking tools.
All of these descriptions do not make the class differ from others.
The characteristic that makes it special is both its students and teachers are from poor families.
While most of them were born to families with many children, some of them are orphans.
They were not able to continue studying at a junior college or university because of poverty.
Tran Duy Thanh, 19, is a newcomer who enrolled in the class about three weeks ago.
During several months before being a student, Thanh was a delivery worker for a company to earn a meager income.
Thanh’s parents got divorced when he was just three years old.
He lived with his mother until she passed away unexpectedly from a heart attack.
The teenager has been left alone since then.
“I left school after completing the tenth grade to make a living as a laborer to help my mother,” Thanh told Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper.
“When I was younger than 18 years old, I worked as a waiter in restaurants.
“Then I became a delivery worker when I was old enough for the job.”
Thanh heard of The French Bakery from one of his acquaintances.
“Despite not having any experience in making bread before, I wanted to try and secure a stable job,” he said.
Apart from the main instructor, Quentin Phillipe, a French baking expert, there are two other lecturers, Dinh Thi Truc Uyen, 25, and Nguyen Thi Nga, 24.
The two female instructors had previously ‘graduated’ from The French Bakery.
“My family has ten members, so I had to leave school after graduating from high school to work at home to help my parents,” Uyen recounted.
“Young women in my hometown — Dak Lak Province [in the Central Highlands] — often get married and have children if they cannot access higher education levels.”
That is why Uyen was excited to enroll in The French Bakery after being informed of the training course by an acquaintance.
“I was 21 years old then and felt puzzled at that time,” remembered Uyen. “I didn’t want to get married, as it was unsuitable for me then.”
Given her own difficult financial situation in the past, Uyen hopes to help as many people as possible, especially disadvantaged young people.
“I look forward to them being able to make a difference for their own life,” said Uyen.
A stable job
According to Trinh Van, a Vietnamese citizen who lives in France and serves as the information technology project manager for The French Bakery, which is technically a vocational school, the training course is meant to change an obsolete prejudice in Vietnam that considers bread making as an unstable job.
“Here, we show the students that being a baker can help them build a good future,” said Trinh Van.
“There are students who graduated from our school working at some famous bakeries, restaurants, and hotels everywhere.”
Students from three classes have graduated from The French Bakery since its launch in 2017.
The French Bakery has successfully trained nearly 40 students while around 20 others are taking the classes.
Among the graduates are some outstanding names like Hoa, who is now working for Maison Marou Bakery in Ho Chi Minh City; Thu, who is now a key employee at Bakes Saigon; and Khuong, who got a job at Fusion Resort on Phuc Quoc Island just after graduating from the school in February.
On top of working in a professional environment, the students will also have many chances to meet with foreign chefs, to acquire more knowledge of other sectors relating to baking such as hospitality and cuisine, according to Trinh Van.
Ngo Van Hoang Khuong, 26, told Tuoi Tre he is content with his job at the moment.
As an orphan, Khuong was adopted by a Vietnamese citizen living in France.
His parents took him to The French Bakery to learn to make loaves of bread.
He has become a skillful baker after studying very hard for one year and a half in the class.
“I got up at 2:30 am every day to prepare for bread making,” Khuong recalled.
“At The French Bakery, I was not only taught skills of making bread but trained in getting daily work organized so I can handle everything quickly.”
The French Bakery is a school with a mission to train young people living in impoverished conditions in making bread.
The initiative was jointly launched by the IECD and the Thu Duc College of Technology.
School students are provided with accommodations and have tuition and food covered for the one-and-half-year course of study.