Beneath her friendly demeanor and dimpled smile, sixteen-year-old Ngoc Gioi is all business—a dedicated student who starts her days at 4:00am.
The youngest of four children, Ngoc Gioi says she is lucky. Despite financial hardship, her parents always stress the value of education, and do everything they can to help their daughter stay in school. Her older sister, also a bright student, was forced to drop out after the fifth grade to take care of the three younger children, and is determined to ensure her sister does not suffer the same fate. “My brother is supportive, too,” says Ngoc Gioi. “He helps with my studies, and often gives me pocket money from his earnings.”
That small bit of extra money comes in handy for Ngoc Gioi, who lives alone in a small rented room close to school. Thu Khoa Thua High School is more than 40 kilometers from her parents’ home, a trip that would be far too difficult and dangerous for the teenager to make daily. Living on her own, says Ngoc Gioi, is difficult, but she has developed a routine that helps her manage.
At 4:00am, Ngoc Gioi starts her day with a light breakfast and some last-minute studying before school starts at 7:00. She attends classes from 7:00am to 5:00pm, except for a short lunch break that she uses to do grocery shopping and prepare her lunch and dinner for the day. After school, Ngoc Gioi goes to tutoring until 8:00pm. Although she has been comfortably ranked at the top of her class throughout secondary school, she knows that good grades are key in helping her achieve her dream of becoming a teacher, so she never misses a session.
After finishing her homework and chores, Ngoc Gioi ends her days with a little relaxation, listening to music on a second-hand mobile phone her dad purchased for her as a gift.
The support Ngoc Gioi receives through the Girls’ Education program has helped her remain focused on her schoolwork “I used to be burdened by guilt—watching my parents struggle and sacrifice so much just to keep me in school,” she says. “Now that guilt is washed off and I can study in peace.”
In addition to easing her family’s financial burden, the program has developed Ngoc Gioi’s confidence. “I find the life skill training and camps very empowering,” she says with a smile. “I have learned to be more confident and how to articulate myself well. “
The skills she has gained will serve Ngoc Gioi well as a teacher, but that’s not the only goal she’s set for herself. “I would like to help other girls by passing on some of the skills that I learned through the Girls’ Education Program and to see the world outside of my village,” she says of her future plans. “I think my first stop would be France, to see the Eiffel tower and French fashion!"
Learn more about our Girls Education program.