by Hoài Văn-Thanh Trần
QUẢNG NAM — Damrey, the twelfth typhoon that hit Việt Nam this year, struck Hà Thuận Village more than a month ago, but the roads to it in Duy Vinh Commune are still deep in mud.
And the commune’s Nguyễn Bỉnh Khiêm Junior Secondary School in Duy Xuyên District is still a water-logged shambles. The winds that stripped all the leaves from the trees have also left the grounds full of mud.
Teachers shudder at the cleaning up they have had to do and what work remains before the school can get back in action.
Nobody thought that the floodwaters would be so deep. They submerged the desks, chairs and other furniture things that had been stacked high to avoid damage.
“I ran to the school right as soon as the water receded," said Nguyễn Tấn Sinh, a literature teacher. "I could not believe my eyes. The mud and sludge was high up the walls. Dozens of library books were submerged in water.”
Teachers are working tirelessly to clean up, but much of the school’s contents are still soaked. In the school grounds, hundreds of books have been laid to dry in the sun.
Lê Đấu, school principal, said teachers were opening every page hoping that many will still be readable.
“I asked my students if their families lost anything in the floods. I was saddeneed when they replied that their families were so poor they did not have anything to lose,” Đấu said.
Duy Vinh Commune is surrounded by rivers and paddy fields. Every time a typhoon hits, the whole area is submerged in a sea of water.
And the Hà Tân Bridge crossing the Duy Vinh River to the school is like "rotten firewood" after so many floods and is at high risk of c ollapsing.
In the past week, dozens of teachers have risked their lives crossing the bridge.
Trần Thị Lộc, a teacher, said using the old bridge gave him goose bumps, but thought about the students waiting for her. Teachers and students are now considering using life jackets to cross the river.
To keep students at school after lunch time, teachers called for donations to provide the children with cheap lunches. Sinh, a teacher of literature, went online to plead for help. So far, he has raised a total of VNĐ5 million (US$220) to provide meals that cost VNĐ15,000 each.
“The students say the meals are delicious,” said Sinh.
Lê Hiếu, a ninth grader, said that knowing the teachers loved students so much, parents told their children to do their best at study,” he said.
Another teacher, Lộc, said in poverty, people knew how to love and help each other. The love was deep in the students’ hearts,” said Lộc.
A dam involved in the flooding is now being repaired so students do not have to stay for lunch and can walk safely to their homes.
But many students come from families that are desperately poor. A student whose mother suffers from cancer must work after school to earn money. Another student whose mother died must help his father raise three children.
Teacher Sinh said, “The most important work is to maintain students’studies. We cannot let them quit school due to poverty.”
“And we are still calling for sponsors to continue helping the students,” he said. — VNS