Teacher attempts suicide at administrative meeting citing years of harassment

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A primary school teacher attempted to commit suicide  in front of an education adminitrator, last week.

In her hospital bed, she cited five years of harassment at the hands of her school principal and educational administrators as the cause.

The administrators have declined to comment on the case, but colleagues and parents at the school have become increasingly concerned about her claims.

Ly Kim Lien, a teacher of Dang Van Bat Primary School in HCMC's Thu Duc District, said she attemtped to kill herself after being informed that she would be transferred to another school against her will.

On August 14, Lien, who has been teaching for nearly 20 years, took out a bottle of pesticides and began drinking it in front of a Thu Duc Education and Training Division official after he refused to allow her to stay at her school.

Lien was taken to Thu Duc General Hospital and has recovered after several days of treatment.

In her sickbed, Lien told Thanh Nien that she has been harassed since her transfer to Dang Van Bat Primary School, five years ago.

Prior to that transfer, Lien had spent 15 years teaching at Nguyen Trung Truc Primary School in Thu Duc's Binh Chieu Ward. The school is not so far from her home and she had thoroughly enjoyed working there.

A long grudge

Things became difficult at Nguyen Trung Truc School when she began clashing with a colleague, Phan Thi Muoi.

Ever since, she says, she has been persecuted.

In 2007, the Thu Duc Education and Training Division tranferred her to Dang Van Bat citing a glut of teachers at Nguyen Trung Truc.

"However, a new teacher was appointed to Nguyen Trung Truc right after I moved," she said.

She met the division head Nguyen Trong Cuong to complain but he persuaded her to move by saying they would consider transferring her back to Nguyen Trung Truc, the following year.

Every year, for the next four years, Lien held out hope that she would return to Nguyen Trung Truc. Every year, however, her petitions for a transfer were denied.

On August 14, she received a notice that she was being transferred to the Nguyen Van Banh Primary School in Thu Duc's Truong Tho Ward--far from her home.

"The new school year has already begun," she said. "All of a sudden, they decided that I have to move. While most teachers receive their transfer notices in July, I was the only one to receive a transfer in mid-August."

Once again, Lien appealed to the district educational division; this time, the division head, Le Minh Tuan, agreed to meet her on August 14.

"They only said that they could not change the decision and even challenged me to sue them in the district People's Committee," she said.

After being challenged, Lien said she could not restrain herself from drinking the pesticide that she had brought to the meeting.

Thanh Nien contacted Thu Duc education division head Le Minh Tuan but he refused to respond to questions over the phone.

On August 17, a reporter visited his office where a guard said he was away at a meeting, although he was clearly present in the office.

Following the initial encounter, guards at Dang Van Bat school forced the reporter to leave the school saying that Tri had refused to receive a reporter during the beginning of the school year.

Nguyen Tien Dat, deputy director of the HCMC Education and Training Department said the district education divisions are in charge of arranging primary school teachers.

"Reassignment is common and often takes place during the summer vacation. However, it depends both on demands of teachers and of the schools," he said.

Retaliation

Lien began her career at Nguyen Trung Truc with her colleague teacher Phan Thi Muoi.

When Lien was moved to Dang Van Bat, Muoi was also assigned there to work as a principal.

Their relationship soured when Lien complained about decisions to grant Muoi honorary titles on two occaisions. Lien told VietNamNet that Muoi received a disciplinary measure following her complaints.

Lien was also frustrated because she wanted to return to Dang Van Bat but was transferred to Nguyen Van Banh instead.

Last year, when hearing that she might be moved to another school, Lien has asked to stay at Nguyen Trung Truc.

"I have fought against corruption and the decision was a result," she said, adding that she has also complained about other problems, like the poor infrastructure at Dang Van Bat, but no one listened to her.
 
The mother of a student at Dang Van Bat, who wished to remain anonymous, described Lien as a good teacher.
 
Another parent expressed frustration at Tuan's refusal to answer a reporter's questions about Lien's case.

VTCNews cited a colleague of Lien, identified only as Ngoc, as saying that everything was fine for Lien before Nguyen Van Cung was assigned to be principal of Nguyen Trung Truc.
 
Cung was Muoi's brother-in-law. Following his appointment, Muoi and Lien were assigned to Dang Van Bat school where Muoi was promoted to the position of principal.
 
"When Cung was Nguyen Trung Truc's principal, Lien was immediately put on his black list," the colleague said.
 
Ngoc said Lien has continued to be harassed at Dang Van Bat, where Muoi serves as principal. The teacher was quoted as saying Lien had attempted to jump from the school's upper floors on several occaisions, including one that drew police to the school.
 
At the beginning of this academic year, Lien asked to be transferred back to Nguyen Trung Truc school after learning that Cung had been transferred to another school.
 
However, by early August she thought no change had been made and prepared for to spend another year at Dang Van Bat. She even had her child transferred to the school.
 
"Lien is a very diligent and hard-working teacher. She is a good teacher who has always improved herself," Ngoc said.
 
"As a straightforward teacher who is willing to fight against wrong, she has been "taken care of'."

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