Minh came to the Prague pre-school club when he was three years old. He could not speak a Czech word, because his parents come from Vietnam. They have lived in the Czech Republic for twelve years. Dad works as a chef, mum is an administrative worker. „In January, when he came, most of the common kindergartens’ enrolments were past the due dates, so the kindergartens were all full. His mum needed to get back to work and therefore his parents chose and alternative way – our pre-school club,” says teacher Bára.
A big obstacle for placing Minh to an ordinary kindergarten was the language barrier. Not only with the boy himself, but also with his parents. “His mother speaks Czech, but during our dialog I occasionally felt she did not understand everything I was saying. Even though she agreed all the time. Sometimes it also seemed she wanted to say something to us, but she did not do it because of the language barrier,” says Bara’s colleague Věra. According to her, Minh’s mother was afraid of communicating with authorities and institutions. “Nevertheless she felt a bit different with us, as if we were more acceptable for her,” she adds.
He did not speak a word. Not even Vietnamese.
Minh was rather passive, a little introvert. It was mainly about nonverbal communication at first, we had to show him everything. After a month, he learned for example that when the triangle jingles, it is cleaning time. Not even two other Vietnamese children who had come to the club over time did not help breaking Minh’s silence. Perhaps it was the age difference between them; maybe it was their different characters. Either way – the children did not even talk to each other. Unlike their parents, who spoke warmly together whenever they met in the club. Sometimes they managed to stand in the club’s corridor for 15 minutes and just talked. “All Vietnamese of course, so we did not know if they praised or criticized us,” laughs Bára.
Even though he did not understand other kids, Minh was part of the collective. The kids accepted him and he accepted them. It was remarkable that he always came out of his skirt when he saw someone crying. That is when he always went to wipe the tears of the kid and to comfort him. He wondered what was going on and one could see he was sorry. After half a year, Minh’s stay at the preschool club ended. He is going to a regular kindergarten after holidays. It was his mother who managed everything. She got partially rid of her fears of institutions after the contact with the staff of the preschool club. And not only that. “When they were leaving, his mom embraced me and told me she wished she wanted to have such great teachers in the second kindergarten as they are here. Also that they appreciate everything we have done for Minh and herself. Even Minh looked at me so sadly and one could see he knew he was here for the last time,” concludes Vera the story.