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Tan Dat: “I wanted to go to school, so I did”

date_range2021-06-04

Nguyen Tan Dat is a 19-year-old student in saigonchildren’s career and skills training programme. Currently, having graduated from his vocational training course, Dat has a job and also goes to school every day.

But that is the 7th grade under the Continuing Education System.

Dat currently lives in Cu Chi in a rented home with his parents. Every day, Dat begins his journey to work from 5 AM, as it takes 45 minutes, in order to make his 6 AM shift at a coffee shop. At noon, after his work shift ends, he goes to school at a Continuing Education Center in Tan Binh.

“Before, when I was 12, I left school in 6th grade. At that time, I was a lazy learner, I went to school, but didn’t learn anything, so I decided to leave. After quitting school, I worked hard to get a job as a security guard – and during the hours where I previously would’ve gone to school, I attended trade and culture classes. Now, I want to study. I want to go to school because I want to learn – luckily, I still have the opportunity to continue my education.” – Dat shares.

After quitting school, Dat worked as a security guard for an office building in Cu Chi. He worked there for almost 2 years – any money saved up was used to help support his family. Whilst working there, he often interacted with the office workers – they inspired Dat to rethink his education: “I saw them and realised what education can bring, the kind of jobs one can have with an education.” Dat said.

In 2020, at 18 years old, Dat decided to register for a 6th-grade course at a Continuing Education Center in Tan Binh. Prior to enrolling, in order to keep up with his peers, Dat had to revise and review his own knowledge. “When I first attended the class, I felt a little weird and embarrassed. But after a few days, I became close friends with the entire class. There were also some students who were my age, which made me feel better. Now, I absorb information better than before, and I want to learn. I don’t know how far my education will go, but I want to at least complete 12th grade to have a degree in order to acquire more stable jobs.”

“It was during this time of going back to school that I met Miss Loan from saigonchildren. She told me that saigonchildren offers scholarships for education, but I was over 18 years old and could not register for that specific program – so I decided to register for vocational training.”

At the end of 2020, saigonchildren provided Dat with career counseling and introduced him to Saigon Tourist to study a bartending training course. After 2 months, he had learned how to make hundreds of different drinks and found a job at a coffee shop near Tan Binh Continuing Education Center, earning 16,000 VND/hour – enough to pay for his tuition fee of 2 million VND a year, and for personal and travel expenses.

“I feel incredibly lucky to have found a job right after finishing my vocational training. That day, I posted online that I’m looking for a bartending job during these specific hours, somehow, a manager at a coffee shop came across my post and contacted me – gave me the job right there and then. I work from early morning until noon. After lunch, I go to the Continuing Education Center, which is only 5 minutes away from work, and study for the rest of the afternoon. Now that there’s another COVID outbreak, I’m worried the coffee shop will have to make cuts. I hope to eventually move to the city to work more shifts in order to further support my parents. Cu Chi is too far and I don’t get home till evening, which is too late.” – Dat shares.

Although COVID has reemerged, Dat’s family and their jobs have luckily not been affected: his mum can still work at the gas station, his dad continues to work at the market, and Dat still goes to work at 5 AM. Hopefully, Dat can continue to work, and more importantly continue his studies, so that all his efforts to return to school are not left unfinished again.

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