Teacher Bao is a former MLE student himself and now teaches MLE to Grade 3s at Seung Primary School. He is extremely grateful for the education he received as a child, saying that knowing both languages has helped him make relationships with people from outside his community. He is passionate about preserving the culture of his community and hopes his daughter Deng goes on to become a teacher too.
Bao’s story in her own words:
I am 26 years old. I have a wife, a daughter named Deng. She is 10, and a son named Seng, who is 8. They are both MLE students. I have been an MLE teacher for nine years. At that time we didn’t have enough teachers so the school committee selected me.
I was selected because I paid attention in school, and I’m kind and I showed respect. And these are important qualities for a teacher to have, and hopefully make me a good role model for young people.
I empathise with the students, and they feel comfortable with me. MLE is important because it’s easy for the students to understand and teachers to explain things in our own language. It’s also important to preserve it because some people stop using it and it can be lost.
It has been easier for me to teach the students because I learnt to read and write in my own language first. The biggest challenge of teaching is that some of the words I don’t know.
The best thing is helping the students have knowledge and preserving my language and culture. For example, teaching the children about the gourds we use to collect water. Nowadays, many people use plastic bottles. We teach traditional ways of farming, traditional ceremonies, these things are in our school text books, and they help teach solidarity and respect. I studied here from grades 1 to 6 and then CARE chose me to become a teacher.
I’m happy that I studied in my own language because now I can teach the next generation. It was the opportunity to access education in both languages that made the selection committee choose me, because no one else could speak both.
I hope to be a State Teacher in 10 years. I’m a contract teacher at the moment. To do this I need to be able to be gentle and kind to my students so the ministry will see my value. I also need to finish Grade 12 and get the teaching certificate.Without MLE, I would be a labourer on a farm or something. I don’t know where I’d be. Those of us who have done MLE have job opportunities that others don’t. NGOs and local government need people who speak the local language.
Compared to my parents, it is easier for me to make relationships with those outside my community. My parents don’t have the confidence to speak to people outside. They’re worried they’ll make mistakes.
I hope my students will have good jobs in the future and they have the opportunity to do the things they want to. I want Deng to become a teacher like me.
I want her to help other generations and participate and contribute her knowledge to others. And help the community develop. I want her to keep my legacy and remember me when she does this.
Doeun loves to draw and read fairytales and stories from the text books. Doeun has her own unique talents and often comes out with unexpected things. Sometimes they makes me laugh. She’s very smart and very decisive. Even at home, if she wants to do something, she does. If she doesn’t, she doesn’t. When you see her play with her friends, she is a natural leader.
Ngai always pay attention in class. She is never absent and will be a good citizen in the future. Whenever I give a test she scores great results and works faster than others. She always scores 80 – 90% on tests.
Some of my former students have gone on to secondary school. Two of them have applied to be teachers, but their teachers have told them they have a good future ahead of them and they should continue with their studies instead.
It is a good step for the government to adopt this program, otherwise we community teachers would be worthless.
An Indigenous NGO has produced books with Tampuen stories and they travel to the communities to loan the books to the students to read at home. The children read the traditional stories at school and tell their parents about them, and then the parents get excited and tell them other parts of the stories that aren’t in the books, plus other stories too. It sparks their interest again.
One of the stories that’s often told in the community is about a smart warrior. The children are so interested that they listen all night and never go to sleep.
For me, the program is perfect and well organized and the others should follow this model.
I used to have my own rice fields but now we grow cashew nuts. It’s not a traditional crop but it’s more of a common thing to sell.