It is interesting to read the latest article from Vietnam Net Bridge entitled, “Class teaches Vietnamese to Khmer in An Giang” posted on 1st August 2008.
When one reads this article for the first time, one may not help but feel a sense of pride that Vietnam government is helping the Khmer people become literate in the Vietnamese language.
It is likely to be a mutual feeling amongst many Vietnamese people and perhaps they are expecting the Khmer people to feel grateful for such acts.
What the Vietnamese government does appear to understand or fully appreciate is that learning Vietnamese is the problem.
Such initiatives have been taking place since 1970s where all Khmer teachers were prohibited to teach Khmer and were only allowed to teach Vietnamese. It has and continues to be a systematic effort by the Vietnamese authorities to assimilate the Khmer people into mainstream Vietnamese society.
A few months ago, an article (http://khmerkrom.net/?q=node/1254) was written about how teachers in Vietnam were attempting to explain why Khmer students were dropping out likes flies. Their conclusion was that the Khmer students had an “inability to learn.”
Sounds like an excuse to explain a genetic disorder that only the Khmers people have in the Mekong Delta.
This latest article by Vietnam Net Bridge shows clearly a misunderstanding of what the Khmer community in Vietnam really needs.
And that is definitely not more Vietnamese classes.
Khmer students are not coping well in classes because everything is in Vietnamese. Vietnamese authorities and teachers are expected the Khmer students to pick Vietnamese as if it was their first language.
The reality is Vietnamese will always be their second language and unless Vietnam recognises this and stop forcing them to give up their native language, Khmer students will continue to miss out on good quality education again and again.
For the last four years, the Khmers Kampuchea-Krom Federation has recommended to the Vietnam at the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues for more classes in the Khmer language. They recommended more funding be allocated to sustain existing school models which are embedded in the Khmer Buddhist temples.
To this date, there has been no major systematic effort by the Vietnamese government to have bilingual classes in which Khmer classes are being taught at the same time.
Instead more Vietnamese classes are being set up, a system which ensures that the Khmer language is not an important priority for the government.
Khmer Krom Buddhist monks and people have been forced to find their own way of preserving what is left of their culture and language.
There are no articles written about government initiatives which promotes and protects the Khmer language.
No clear signs which indicates that Vietnam understands or appreciate the Khmer culture and the urgent need to preserve it in all of its form.
This article also shows the lack of priority and disregard that Vietnam has on the Khmer language.
The tone of the article shouts to us, “It is all about us, about being the Vietnamese”.
What about the Khmer language?
“There remain some difficulties, but we are very pleased to see the Khmer try to learn Vietnamese,” Lieutenant-Colonel Hoa said.
It is great that Khmer students are eager to learn Vietnamese and it is certainly a skill that they must be equipped with to survive in a home that is increasing less familiar and more Vietnamese.
It is clear that the Vietnam government wants the Khmer people to fully incorporate into the Vietnam mainstream society at all cost.
It doesn’t matter if the very heart, culture and language of the Khmers is lost in the process.
When will the Vietnamese government realise that such thoughts and action will be their ultimate undoing?
While having more Vietnamese schools will help them incorporate into the greater Vietnamese society, it will set up for more Khmer students to fail and drop out because it does not accurately address their bilingual needs.
Vietnam‘s education system is failing for the Khmer people.
When will Vietnam finally listen to the voices and concerns of the Khmer people rather for it own selfish reasons?