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Sunday, 6 November 2011

A school in Saigon: Vietnam memories 1965 1975

Post 114

A good school. Saigon, Vietnam

The school day began at eight in the morning and finished at eight in the evening. It consisted of five two hour classes with a lunch period from twelve to two. Each two hour session had a short break in the middle. The teachers were a mixed group of Vietnamese, Australian, New Zealand, Canadian, German and British. There were also from time to time Polish soldiers from some peace observation force. They couldn't live on their salaries. It was very international with quite a wide range of English being used. The Vietnamese school system was very overcrowded and they only had half day sessions. The other half day they spent in private specialist schools. At least those with the financial means did.

The Vietnamese have always had a high respect for education. It was also the one method for advancement in life. This meant they studied hard and showed great respect for their teachers. Discipline as such was never really a problem. They were invariably polite and well dressed. The habit of wearing their best clothes for exams was most pleasant.

I used to go by cyclo. I had come to some arrangement with a particular one about price. In the humidity of Saigon it was much better than a taxi. I would usually walk home, often stopping off at the Cirque Sportif for a swim. The hours were variable and one usually taught four sometimes six hours a day. If one tried to do too much one did get worn down. Mrs Contento did not accept sickness as an excuse for not going to work. If one had an accute attack of diarrhea or could not speak because of laryngitis one still showed up. If one was absent somebody had to take your place which was not considered acceptable and naturally one wasn’t paid. The electricity often failed in the evening and there was a ready supply of candles. I think most of the books were pirated photo copies. The Vietnamese were quite brazen about this. Nobody could have afforded the price of regularly imported school books nor were there the means to produce them in country.

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