Tra Vinh pagodas preserve Khmer language

(VOVWORLD) - Teaching Khmer language at Khmer Theravada Buddhist pagodas has long been a tradition in the Mekong Delta province of Tra Vinh. All pagodas in the province have Khmer language classes for people of ethnicities, genders, ages, and religious faiths.

Tra Vinh has the second largest population of Khmer people in Vietnam, after Soc Trang province. Nearly one third of its 1 million residents are Khmer.

All 143 of its pagodas hold Khmer language classes, either in the pagoda or at a nearby community center or school. The pagodas provide books, pens, and other school supplies to students in difficult circumstances. Monks and lay volunteers teach the summer classes without asking any fee, donation, or contribution from the students. 

Tra Vinh pagodas preserve Khmer language - ảnh 1A class at Kompong Đung pagoda, Tra Vinh province (photo: Ngoc Anh)

Kompong Đung is the biggest among 15 pagodas in Tieu Can district and has the most students.

Venerable Kim Manh, head of Kompong Đung said: “We teach pupils and monks from the district and from other localities. We’ll hold secondary level examinations late this year and early next year. Members of the pagoda’s Executive Board and the monks teach the Khmer language as well culture and traditions. We’re trying to preserve the Khmer identity.”

Classes for children are usually short courses during the summer holidays, which won’t impact their regular studies. The pagodas also have classes on the same schedule as the general education program of the Ministry of Education and Training. Monk Kim Hoang Trung comes from Tra Cu district to Tra Vinh city to study at Ong Met pagoda.

“A school year lasts 9 months. Every month we have 4 days off. There are 10 subjects and Khmer language from grade 1 to 12. The teacher comes from Tieu Can district to Tra Vinh city. He volunteers to teach here. He obtained a Doctorate degree in India and now he teaches Balinese.”

Tra Vinh pagodas preserve Khmer language - ảnh 2A class at Ong Met pagoda, Tra Vinh province (photo: Ngoc Anh)

To preserve the Khmer language and culture, parents encourage their children to come to a pagoda to study.

Kim Thi So Phat, who brings her children to study at Ong Met pagoda, said: “My children learn many things here. I come to the pagoda to see my children every few days. They will finish school in 2 years. After graduating it will be easier for them to find a job.”

Besides teaching Khmer, the pagoda also teaches morality, dignity, filial piety, communication, and etiquette.

Venerable Son Kenne of Ong Met pagoda, said: “We have classes for monks and Buddhist followers. Each class has 31 students. They also study Buddhism for 3 years at the elementary and 4 years at the intermediate level. Almost every Theravada Buddhism pagoda has elementary and intermediate classes.”

The biggest problem for the pagodas is that the number of students is growing, but the pagodas lack teachers and classrooms.

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