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A TEACHER RECEIVING RESCUE CALLS AT MIDNIGHTS

“The cell phone rang at midnight, right after I selected the Accept button, there was the hurried voice of a female student on the other end: Please, please save me, I am trapped by my in-laws…,” Dr. Le Thi Ngan, Head of Faculty of Law and Society Management, Thai Nguyen University – University of Science, recalled one of many special calls she received from students at midnight.

Ms Ngan

I CRIED WHEN LISTENING TO MY STUDENTS’ STORIES

59% of students studying law, social work and social management in my faculty are female, and 60% of students are from ethnic minority groups. Many of them have witnessed their mother being beaten by their father or have been beaten themselves, without having any awareness about domestic violence. I often receive calls at midnight from students asking to be rescued. To me, this is not an inconvenience, this is my responsibility and duty as their teacher and second mother.”

Ms. Ngan remembers a H’Mong ethnic minority student who was studying social work and got married at 16. When she was admitted to the university, she was beaten by her husband and parents-in-law as they did not allow her to pursue her study. After she gave birth, her parents-in-law kept her son, forcing her to choose between study and her child.

Being lost between love towards her son and passion for study, the female student came to her teacher to share her story and ask for advice. Ngan asked her former students who were working as commune police and Commune Deputy Party Secretary at her student’s commune to help her bring her son with her. Despite this intervention, she was bound and trapped by her husband’s family when she came to pick up her son. Fortunately, she was able to call her teacher, Ngan, who contacted the local authorities and asked them to come and rescue her.

The other day, during her lecture about social work with the elderly, Ngan raised a topic: “Before working as a social worker, it is necessary to be a good child. As you are going to work as social workers, what will you do for your parents when they are old?” 

Among the 63 students in the class, Ngan received 10 stories about the miseries of the father or mother due to violence. The most memorable story for her was from Pham Thi T, a Tay ethnic minority student from Cho Don District, Bac Kan Province. On paper, she described how her mother was painfully hit by her addicted father. Growing up with fears of being beaten and of economic disadvantage, T found shelter at her uncle’s house. Although she is a third-year student, she was unsure about her job and future. 

When reading these 10 stories, Ngan burst into tears. She met each student in person, gave them advice and psychological counselling. For T, Ngan asked the local authorities and the student’s relatives to rescue her mother and help her to proceed with a divorce from her violent husband. Then, Ngan helped T and her mother rent a room and offered her mother a job, so that she could make a living and support T in her study. T has graduated from the university, found a good job and lives happily with her mother. 

INITIATIVES OF A FEMALE LEADER 

As a person who is directly involved in handling domestic violence cases associated with students, and has witnessed their relatives failing to protect them from violence, Ngan feels her heart being wrenched. After being selected for the Australia Awards Short Course – Women in Leadership Journey, Ngan committed to take actions to raise an uncompromising voice against domestic violence. 

“Women should not and should never kiss hands which have slapped them. Because if they do, they will never be happy,” Ngan added.

Dr Ngan

Dr. Lê Thị Ngân (third from left) received a Certificate of Participation in the Australia Awards Short Course – Women in Leadership Journey

Ngan’s project is: “Integrating gender-based violence issues into the curriculum of Social Work Faculty at Thai Nguyen University – University of Science and developing cooperation and links among important service providers and universities”. After the implementation period, the project received fruitful results. The most successful outcome was that a large number of people took part in the project activities. Ngan opened a training course, called Domestic Violence, Awareness and Response which attracted a number of faculty students. In this course, Ngan involved two law offices which provided legal consultancy and support to participants on how to handle domestic violence cases.

“Gender inequity issues will not be solved effectively by general policy changes, it is necessary to take actions and raise awareness from a very young age, at kindergartens and elementary schools to establish cultural values. In my opinion, a gender-equity educational environment should be promoted at elementary schools and kindergartens, not only at university,” said Dr. Le Thi Ngan.

In addition, during the course, she has developed linkages with the Vietnam Women’s Union and Thai Nguyen Provincial Women’s Union to raise students’ awareness and show them how to respond to domestic violence. Within two weeks after sharing information on the Faculty’s webpage, especially via talks and discussion videos, nearly 5,000 persons joined and shared opinions about this issue. In addition, Ngan facilitated student visits to the Centre for Women and Development and Peace House, so that they could learn about the lives of many women who are abused, forced to leave their homes, and look for support from the community.

“Actually, these talks and practices are just the first step to spread our messages. Other lecturers at our faculty and university understand that regular education and information about these issues are essential to raise people’s awareness of the situation and to change themselves. Each person should be able to protect themselves - This is the message I would like to deliver through my project,” Ngan answered when asked about her biggest expectation from the project.

Source: Education & Times Newspaper