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Cham language teaching in the heart of Dau Tieng lake

Update: 01-07-2022 | 15:21:03

Years ago, the Cham people living in Hoa Loc hamlet of Minh Hoa commune in Dau Tieng district were almost illiterate. In life and performing religious ceremonies, the local people mainly speak Cham by words of mouth, causing some cultural identities to be lost because they cannot be retained. In recent years, thanks to former teachers Ca Sa Lim and So Fi Dan, letters have been taught to the old, young people and even children of the Cham ethnicity living by the lake of Dau Tieng for them to read and write Cham.

The gate of the Cham cultural village in Hoa Loc hamlet is designed according to the typical symbol, imbued with the cultural identity of the Cham people.

Cham people must know Cham language

The new rural winding asphalt road took us to Hoa Loc hamlet of the Cham people in the hot sun of the Ramadam festival - the holiest festival of Muslims to perform the new "fasting" ritual. The Cham village has been quiet for many generations, nestled on the edge of Dau Tieng Lake, where the border between Binh Duong province and Tay Ninh province is now increasingly renewed and developed. The Cham people in Hoa Loc hamlet have more than 100 households with more than 500 people, making a living mainly by fishing, gardening and trading, so the economic life of the local people is very well off.

The village surrounded by wild, attractive, sparsely populated forests today has spacious infrastructure, green rubber plantations, and bright street lights throughout the village at night. The most impressive for us here is the Al Mutt Aqin Mosque located in the center of Hoa Loc hamlet with unique architecture as a place of community cultural activities according to the religious beliefs of the Cham Islam people.

Welcoming us was the teacher Mach A Min, 71 years old, and the leading member of the Cham community in the traditional Cham brocade sarong. The gesture of bowing to welcome guests with friendly smiles and the way of talking in both Cham and Kinh languages ​​make everyone close as if they have been friends for a long time. Pointing at the blackboard densely written with Cham letters, teacher Sa Lim, the former chief teacher of the Cham village, said: "In this mosque, in addition to being for the people to come to worship, it is also a place to open classes of Cham language. Currently in the village, teacher So Fi Dan and I are taking turns teaching. During the day we organize 3 classes, at night we teach 1 class. Each class has more than 20 people of all backgrounds and ages who come to learn with great enthusiasm. When the children don't go to school, they go to the mosque to learn Cham which is as well as learning other languages, you should learn in letters, spelling, combining words, making sentences etc. Once you know how to read and write, you will then switch to learn how to preach the Islam.”

Teacher Sa Lim introduces the Cham writing system to the author of the article

Teacher Sa Lim is over 60 years old this year. The teacher's tall figure, slightly arched back like a bow, seems to have put a lot of heart into the dream of "sowing words" of Cham for his compatriots. Coming from a Cham family in Ho Chi Minh city, Mr. Sa Lim had the conditions to be fully educated and was assigned the responsibility of being a teacher of Cham script and catechism at a mosque in Ho Chi Minh City. In the 1990s, when his family was poor, he had to bring his family and relatives to Hoa Loc hamlet beside Dau Tieng lake to reclaim and settle down.

Turning his gaze towards the lake's shining like a star at night, Mr. Sa Lim let out a distant voice: "Those were the days when the local Cham people only lived in makeshift homes and worked in the fields of rain and sunshine to rear and plant for trading for a living. At that time, very few people knew Cham. After retiring from the mosque in Ho Chi Minh city, I returned to Hoa Loc hamlet to devote all my time and enthusiasm to teaching Cham.”

And teacher So Fi Dan was also fortunate to finish Grade 8 at a village school to continue his study of Muslim teachings in Cham, Arabic and Malaysian languages. From An Giang province to Dau Tieng district, the predestined relationship attached him to his now wife, and then settled down in Hoa Loc hamlet. Mr. So Fi Dan followed Mr. Sa Lim to take turns teaching Cham to the people in the village. He said: “Most of the local people are poor, so we teach for free. My biggest aspiration is that Cham people must know how to read and write Cham.”

Take advantage of night class

The cool breezes from Dau Tieng Lake have blown away the hot sun pouring down on Cham village at Hoa Loc hamlet. From the cafeteria watching the Cham village in the melodious music, the feeling of excitement and sadness suddenly appeared in my heart when I looked at the new houses that have been growing up close together like in the old town. Some houses are also decorated with stalactite paintings according to the cultural beliefs of Islam, and at the foot are more skillful Cham inscriptions.

Talking to us in a brocade dress and shirt, Mr. Abdoa Zit, 43 years old, the owner of the cafeteriaopened his heart that Cham children aged 15 years and older began to learn how to worship and study doctrine. Learning the Cham script is to know how to read the laws and to read the Muslim scriptures. During the day, they work to earn a living, so the Cham take advantage of the night classes to learn how to read. Mr. Abdoa Zit also boasted that he was the captain of the Shock Squadron of Hoa Loc hamlet together with everyone in maintaining the security and order of the village and propagating the CPV’s guidelines and policies, and the State's laws and policies to the people. The story of Mr. Abdoa Zit's experience made we feel that the Cham village is well implementing all the guidelines of the CPV, policies and laws of the State. At the same time, generations of Cham people continue to restore and preserve their traditional culture.

We said goodbye to Cham village in Hoa Loc hamlet when the sunset color dyed the surface of Dau Tieng lake purple. As far away from the Cham village in Hoa Loc hamlet, the image of the Cham class with the children's babble and spelling and the image of teacher Sa Lim and some young people standing to see us off in Cham language "Hulinlakaula Salamad Ong - May" (meaning goodbye and wishing you all the best) the more they were holding me back. Let’s see you again in Cham village in the bustling festival seasons in full affection and affluence and development. That's what I thought to myself.

Reported by Thu Huong – Translated by Vi Bao

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