Filipino teachers in Vietnam lose income amid COVID-19 crisis

Dumay Solinggay
Filipino teachers in Vietnam lose income amid COVID-19 crisis
Expats open homes to cash-strapped kababayans

HANOI, Vietnam – Teacher Brenda* from Baguio City has been waiting for classes to resume after Vietnam’s Ministry of Education and Training (MET) extended the Lunar New Year break due to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) scare.

“If the forced vacation extends to another week, I’ll just stay home and wait. But if they extend it longer, I’ll start looking for an alternative source of income,” Brenda, 37, said.

Brenda is among the many Filipino English teachers in Vietnam who are losing income since the MET suspended classes as a preventive measure against the COVID-19 pandemic.

The suspension of classes began on February 3. Since then, classes have not resumed, preventing many Filipinos working at English Learning Centers from earning their daily wages.

According to Brenda, her employer cannot pay her for the month of February because the students’ parents asked for a reimbursement of the tuition fee they paid for their children’s English language lessons.

Teacher Mary, 23, from Ilocos Sur, came back to Hanoi after spending the Lunar New Year break in the Philippines. She has been staying with her sister since. She is working in Hai Duong, a province in Northern Vietnam, but she has not yet returned to her workplace because of the class suspension.

“I am not expecting I’ll get paid this month because I did not teach,” she said.

The MET released its directive for a week of cancellation of classes on the first week of February. The second directive was released for the city of Ho Chi Minh on February 14, which stated that classes are cancelled until February 29. The city of Hanoi and 62 provinces were later included in the directive.

Teacher Cecilia, 40, from Mankayan in Benguet, has a full-time contract with a “big” English center. Her school moved some of her classes to an online platform. Her teaching hours are lesser but she will still earn her monthly salary. However, she has to offset her teaching hours once the school resumes its regular schedule.

Both Brenda and Mary are working for “small” English centers and have a full-time contract with their employers.

Filipino teachers in Hanoi bonding during the time of COVID-19. Photo by Khare Ap-apid

The three Filipinos, like many other English teachers in Vietnam, are waiting for further announcement from the MET after the Municipal People’s Committee of Ho Chi Minh requested an extension of the school break until the end of March.

This could mean two months of no income for many Filipino English teachers.

Meanwhile, online hubs like Filipino English Teachers in Vietnam and Filipino Expats in Vietnam have offered their help to those greatly affected by the crisis.

On Facebook community pages, Filipinos in different parts of Vietnam wrote they were willing to take in kababayans (countrymen) who are in need of a place to stay while “this remains unsolved and ’till classes resume.”

Vietnam has recorded 16 cases COVID-19 infection, where 15 have recovered and been discharged from the hospital. Vietnam also closed its borders to China for the meantime.

The Philippine Embassy has a list of 1,758 registered Filipino voters in Vietnam.  – Rappler.com

*The teachers’ last names are withheld upon request.