"I held him tightly, hoping he would stop hitting other children. Then he bit me really hard. I was shocked and scared but seeing him like that, I could only continue holding him until his fit ended," she said. "Regular blackboards and chalk are replaced by passion and love."

Each teacher is often assigned to look after a class of 10 children age from four to six. However, due to lack of teachers, sometimes, Trang had to look after 30 children at a time. This was obviously a difficult situation and the children lack sufficient individual care.

Trang said she always felt worried whenever she had to take a leave for a few days because the children are very sensitive to yelling, a mistake inexperienced teachers may commit.

Dr Hoang Thi Nho, deputy head of the Special Education Department at Vietnam National University of Education, said most disabled children feel lonely and need a close relationship with their teaching staff. As the number of disabled children is increasing, especially those with autism, Nho is worried both about the number and quality of the teachers.

According to Nho, those trainee teachers that choose the Special Education Department, often have their own reasons such as a difficult background or because their families also have a disabled member. Teachers in special education have to face a tough job and low salary.

Pham Thi Kim Nga, head of Nguyen Dinh Chieu School, said average monthly wages were VND3.5m (USD150) to VND5m.

"Teachers for disabled children have to work three times harder," she said. "One time, we were able to get two teachers for a class of 30 children. But the teachers quit as time went by."

Pham Minh Muc, director of Vietnam National Institute of Educational Sciences, said Vietnam had only five colleges and universities that have training courses for teachers in special education. The enrollment quota is also the lowest, with only 30-50 students.

Teachers for disabled children can find jobs immediately after graduation as there are 119 education facilities for disabled children in Vietnam. Even regular kindergartens and schools also have disabled children. However, the sector is not attractive enough for students.

Muc said the authorities must have policies to attract students and better training courses.

Dan Tri News - December 15, 2018