Vietnam: Peace education provides students with opportunities for creativity and critical thinking

Photo credit: Minh Duc

Young students from Hoa Binh province, Vietnam, were able to participate in an extracurricular photographic workshop organized by Aide et Action and its partners. It was an opportunity to develop their creativity and critical thinking skills, which are usually not very stimulated. In Cao Son commune, located in Da Bac district, one of the poorest in Hoa Binh, the poverty rate is over 15%  - well above the national average. Like Hoa Binh, many of Vietnam's northern provinces are home to ethnic minority groups who, although they represent only 15% of the country's total population, account for 86% of the country's extremely poor, according to World Bank findings. These high levels of poverty, combined with geographical remoteness and lack of access to quality education and health care, leave many children malnourished and out of school.

A support programme for and with disadvantaged children

To solve this problem, theWe haveAide et Action's "Education for Peace" program, in partnership with the Taiwanese Fund for Children and Families, provides scholarships to some of the most disadvantaged children in the commune and improves the quality of learning environments for school children. Our scholarship, called "Education for Peace", was awarded to 82 disadvantaged children in Cao Son commune to help them stay in school. For Trieu Tieu Le, a fifth-grader, winning the scholarship meant that her mother could afford to buy more food for the family. "I felt very happy when I won the scholarship," she says. I gave it to my mother to buy us food and she was very proud of me". In schools, we have not only improved infrastructure to create more child-friendly classrooms, but we have also organised children's clubs to promote peace education. This is an essential component of quality basic education that promotes the knowledge, skills, attitudes and values needed to bring about behavioural change to enable children, youth and adults to resolve problems and conflicts peacefully. Traditionally, children have not been part of decision-making processes in education in Vietnam, but through our child-centred activities we aim to encourage teachers and students to listen to children's voices. Our children's clubs are child-led and children decide what they want to do there. For example, club members have chosen to set their own ground rules and appoint team leaders.

A photography workshop to encourage children's creativity

On 28 March 2020, children from Cao Son commune participated in their first ever photography workshop. Sixteen students and their teachers were able to take part. Minh Duc, a photography consultant working with Aide et Action, gave a training session that taught the children how to use a digital camera and some basic notions of photography. After a morning of lessons, the children spent the afternoon practicing and developing their new skills with an emphasis on storytelling. According to local teacher Mr. Trieu Van Thong, the children's clubs give his students more confidence to communicate with others. "Usually they stand back and just watch"He is delighted to see his fifth graders taking a more hands-on approach to the photography workshop. With limited time and resources, organising an activity like this is not easy, but now that the teacher has seen how it works and his school has been equipped with a camera, it will be possible to organise more activities like this. Among the participants, Trieu Tieu Le lives alone with her older sister during the week and only sees her mother at weekends when she returns from her job at a local factory. Being able to take photos for her mother while she is away was an exciting and comforting idea for her; she was able to make it a reality through this workshop. "This is the first time I have used a camera - I don't have one at home. It's very useful and interesting. I want to take a nice picture for my mother and sister. "Learning by doing fosters creativity and critical thinking in children. Our children's clubs and our focus on peace education provide a unique space for young people to discuss and debate new topics, conduct experiments and participate in creative projects, all of which are important elements of a quality education.

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