Last update: 12:10 | 08/10/2017
Cil Duin, a 41 year-old man from the K’Ho ethnic minority in the Central Highlands province of Lam Dong, has become the first of his people to receive a doctorate. His success has shown that the old attitudes of ethnic people studying just to learn to read and write can be a thing of the past. Thu Ngan talks with Duin about his efforts.
Cil Duin and his wife in China where he graduated.
You were born in a poor village where many difficulties for study exist. Can you tell me about your childhood and how you became the first K’Ho from Lac Duong in Lam Dong Province to receive a doctorate?
Like many other children in our village, I started school at the age of about 10-11. For ethnic children like us, it is difficult to speak Vietnamese. It is even more difficult to compose stories.
We go to school for half a day in the morning or in the afternoon. After school, we have no time to study at home. In our "free" time, we look after buffaloes or help our parents on the farm.
In the 80s and 90s, the economic situation of the country and our distant location made education difficult. Many of my friends had to quit school in the sixth or seventh grade.
I once quit school when I was in the fifth grade, even though my father did not support my decision. He encouraged me to return to school. I clearly remember what he told me: “Your mother and I could not go to school due to poverty. As our son you have to go to school to get knowledge and escape poverty.”
His persuasiveness strengthened me, and, from that moment, I never had a thought of quitting. I kept trying my best to make my father’s wish come true.
I strongly focused on studying and my results improved. In ninth grade, I received the school’s certificate of satisfactory progress. From that year, I received a certificate every year.
Your father had a strong impact on you. Can you tell more about the energy that he gave to you?
My father was so happy with my studies, especially when I graduated from Hue Technical University and was appointed to teach at a high school near my family. “I’m so happy and proud,” my father told me.
He often told me the story of my grandfather who told his children they should study well and become doctors. When it came to my turn, I promised myself and my father I would try my best.
The energy that my father passed on to me lasted after I became a teacher. I thought that as a teacher, I must be an example for students, especially an ethnic minority one. Because of that, I decided to get a master’s degree, which I achieved in 2007 at Da Lat University.
At that time, my Dad asked me whether a master’s was the highest degree. I said no and told him I would continue to learn more.
In 2010, I went to China to study for a PhD thanks to the Party’s Project 165. Unfortunately, my father died while I was in China.
The first day I came back from China, I put my degree on his altar to inform him and my grandfather that my task was complete and I would continue to try my best in my work.
What was the biggest challenge you faced to pursue your dream as someone who began studying later than others?
The biggest challenge I faced was language. At elementary school, it was difficult for me to understand the Kinh language [Vietnamese universal language] as I was born in an ethnic group that speaks its own language.
Speaking Kinh was difficult, and it was more difficult to write literature and do maths in Vietnamese. When I began to speak Vietnamese well, all of these challenges were swept away.
The obstacle returned when I went to China as I did not know Chinese. To solve the problem, I actively penetrated the society by talking to Chinese people. Initially, I tried my best to understand what they were saying and then I tried to express my ideas clearly so that they could understand me.
It was lucky for me as Project 165 offered a course to study Chinese. In addition, I was taught one-on-one by a famous professor, so my Chinese improved a lot.
With the support of the professor and friends, I finished the course in three years. Although meeting many difficulties, I never considered quitting.
I told myself that there would be nothing that I could not do. Every time I faced difficulties but failed to find a solution, I chose to temporarily stop and go to church to put my mind at peace. After this, I felt stronger and found the urge again.
What is your current job?
I am now the deputy head of a desk under the Bureau of Education and Training in Lac Duong District in Lam Dong Province.
Why did you decide to work in your hometown instead of in bigger cities?
I think that I should firstly fulfill my job well in the local area. Working in my hometown gives me many advantages because I clearly understand the local people and their customs.
Furthermore, I studied thanks to the Government support so I have to work under assignment from the Government.
With the current job, I am trying my best to tell young people that poverty is not a reason to stop their dreams about studying. Problems with a different language can be solved.
If they want to study and work, they must have a strong belief and try their best.
If you had a chance to offer a proposal to the Government on behalf of ethnic children, what would you say?
First of all, I would propose that the Government create a good education environment for ethnic students so they can study in the same class with Kinh ethnic majority students. In that way, they will have chances to study the Kinh language.
The Government also should examine how to simplify the education programme, especially at the elementary level, so that children will have more time to play.
Teachers at kindergartens must know ethnic language so they can help children when they first go to school.