Together we learned ‘We are ABLE’

Ha Giang, Ninh Thuan, Soc Trang provinces – Viet Nam – Following the establishment of core student groups at twelve schools, the “We are ABLE” project organised two capacity building workshops for each province from September to November 2020. With an aim of raising awareness and enhancing knowledge of school-related gender-based violence, the trainings covered the theme of education’s significance with a focus on green living pedagogies to boost students’ self-esteem and acknowledge ethnic diversity.

Respecting mother languages – Breaking down language barriers

Language is often a barrier to dialogue and capacity building activities. While Kinh (Vietnamese) is the official language in the country’s education system, ethnic languages are the mother tongue of the major “We are ABLE” project’s beneficiaries. It was noted, for example, that Raglai students in Ninh Thuan Province remained silent when questioned by the facilitators but discussed actively in their mother language within their groups. Students later shared they understood the questions but could not clearly express their ideas in Kinh language. Their fear: being judged as not being able to learn well. This small example illuminates a much more significant challenge.

The training took this situation into account, asking students to express their thoughts in their mother languages, followed by a discussion note in Vietnamese for the facilitators. Students immediately became active. And when the students learned that the facilitators also came from other ethnic minority backgrounds, they felt more relaxed sharing their opinions and stories.

Understanding the students’ self and thinking positively: The foundation of empowerment

Unfortunately, stereotypes persist about ethnic minorities and this has a real impact on student. Ethnic communities are portrayed as backwards, compared to the majority population. Many lower secondary ethnic minority students consequently believed that they had poor learning scores because of an innate learning deficiency. To address this issue and meet students’ needs investigated in earlier dialogues, these capacity building workshops focused on building confidence, public speaking and problem-solving competencies with game-based pedagogy.

As the first step, the students explored their world, reflecting on their strengths and potentials and identified room for improvement in their interaction with others, challenging the negative stereotypic beliefs. Through the practice of speaking out loud and storytelling they reflected on their potential and value as well as their friends and their community’s and gained more confidence for a brighter future. Being inspired, the students became more engaged in other knowledge sessions for the rest of the workshops on the importance of education and green living.


After the workshop, those students expressed that they were able to

…open a restaurant to supply happy meals to make sad people happier

Student, Dai An 1 lower secondary school, Soc Trang province

…overcome difficulties, developing my strengths to become a good farmer

Student, Dong Dau lower secondary school, Ninh Thuan province

…convey and express the cultural traditions of our people – the Cham people, so together, everyone knows to preserve and be proud of the culture of the Cham people

Student, Dong Dau lower secondary school, Ninh Thuan province

… be who I am

Student, Ban May primary and lower secondary ethnic semi-boarding school, Ha Giang province

The capacity building workshops were organised in the framework of the “We are ABLE project” project, implemented by UNESCO in close partnership with the Ministry of Education and Training and the Committee for Ethnic Minority Affairs, with financial support from CJ Group and the UNESCO Malala Fund for Girls’ Right to Education.

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