After graduating Hue University's Teachers' Training College, Nguyen Duy Quy was assigned to teach at a high-school in Quang Nam Province. But instead, his fate lead him down a 16 year path teaching visually impaired students at the Nguyen Dinh Chieu School – a school for blind students – in Da Nang city.
The challenge of adapting teaching methods to meet the needs of disabled students was not a small one, it was a big change in Quy's life.
"It felt like I was also in the dark, learning how to lecture students in visually strong subjects. Most of my students are blind or elsewise visually impaired. They could hear and understand the lecture, but they could not draw or see the imagery of geometry, for example," Quy recalled.
"It was a struggle against time to find the best way to use and create new teaching tools for maths class. It took me three months to understand our students' needs," he said.
The 45-year-old teacher said his students use the Braille writing system to read books, but he had to create Braille characters for maths symbols such as triangle, circle or hexagon. "Straight lines can be easily recognised by raised dots, but the other illustrations are very difficult," he said.
In 2005, Quy created magnetic tools to be used for maths.
"It's my first breakthrough. I made a triangle, rectangular, circle and hexagon from metal pieces to explain the shapes to my students. These teaching tools can be used for long time," he said.
Vo Van Nhat, a blind student from the Nguyen Dinh Chieu school, said the teaching tools helped him graduate from high-school.
"I spent time studying with him. His creation gave us an easy way to think about and understand maths, the most difficult subject for the blind at our high-school," Nhat said.
"The knowledge and the assistance from him and other teachers at the school helped my studies take off. Now I'm a second year student at the Da Nang Economics College," he said.
Quy's latest creation is an electronic stick that helps the blind cross the road safely.
"It's dangerous for the blind when they cross the road, with all that busy traffic. A normal stick can lead them across the street, but it doesn't give warning signals for other passers-by," Quy explained.
"I needed the assistance of physics teachers and mechanics to make a circuit connection with both a horn and a Light-Emitting Diode system. The aluminum stick is foldable and the blind can easy bring it when moving around," he said.
The school's 185 blind students now benefit from using the electronic sticks.
Quy's works don't stop there, he also translated figures in math books, and created compasses and a drawing board for students.
"I use the basic idea of the Braille character system, raised dots on paper, to translate books. Learning tools help make everything impossible, possible. I'm so happy my students can find easier ways to improve and further their education," he said.
Le Thi Tuyet Mai, principal of the Nguyen Dinh Chieu School, said Quy had made big contributions to the education disabled students receive.
"His creations come from a love for the disabled and the soul and heart of a good teacher. He creates a bridge for blind students to reach their dreams," she said.
The challenge to build a curriculum and teaching method for the disabled still continues for Quy, especially now that he is in charge of the junior school for the disabled.
"The new school has 190 students with different disabilities ranging from the age of six to 18. The day boarders are either autistic or have mental disorders. I and a group of 50 members keep the challenge going," he said.
"I hope to do more for the disabled. It's my fate. My love is reserved for disabled kids," he said.
Where love grows
If not for the love of children, nothing could keep the teachers of Ta Mit Kindergarten in the remote northern mountains of the Lai Chau Province.
Ho Thi Quyen, the vice principal of the kindergarten, who is now in her fifth year at the school, said she and other colleagues think of the challenges that come with their line of work as some of the most precious experiences and memories of their careers.
Quyen, who almost drowned five years ago when crossing a river in the province's Tan Uyen District, said even dangerous incidents could not hinder her determination to stay with the children in the remote regions.
She also doesn't mind having to teach out of a poor "classroom" of dried bamboo trunks.
"It is tolerable when it's dry and sunny, but when it's cold and rainy, the children and I have to huddle close together to avoid water seeping through holes in the classroom's roof," Quyen said, adding, "though we can't avoid the freezing wind in winter days."
The place where Quyen and her five colleagues stay is not much better. Their shelters are made of tree trunks and roofed with weaved bamboo sticks. Located right next to the kindergarten classrooms, one can see the hydropower lake from Quyen's window, which makes her feel even further from civilization.
But she is now used to it and doesn't let it get her down.
"We try to make ourselves busy by making toys for the children with what we have," she said.
Lo Van Dien, vice chairman of the commune's People's Committee, said local residents, resettled for the construction of the Huoi Quang - Ban Chat Hydropower plant, lead difficult lives. The residents hope that the Government provides support to help them build schools, teacher housing and clinics for the betterment of the struggling community.