DVC professor’s ‘Pursuit’ for improved pedagogy

Jessica Trimmer, Staff writer
September 20, 2012

DVC math professor Katrina Keating and Skyline college math professor Tadashi Tsuchida have co-written and self-published a book called No Lunch, No Money, No Rice: The Pursuit of Education in Asia, about the struggles of many students in rural Southeast Asia. The title was inspired by a woman named Xue from northern Vietnam who was interviewed for the book. “I ask my father if I can go and he say to me ‘We have no lunch, no money, no rice, and no pig so you cannot go to school.’”

Keating and Tsuchida, a married couple, made their first trip to Vietnam in 2004 without the intention of writing a book, but Southeast Asia quickly became their second home. “We made lifelong friends on that first trip,” professor Keating remembered. Although they planned to stay a few days, they ended up spending two weeks there.

Interviews and photographs in the book were collected by the couple in the summer of 2008 and fall of 2009. Professor Tsuchida, who had been teaching at Skyline College for eight years, was able to get a sabbatical for the fall semester.  Professor Keating had only been teaching at DVC for three years, so she took a semester off unpaid.

Being educators, they were both surprised to find that many of the people they met had been unable to finish school. Some people they met had been unable to attend at all. “It was difficult hearing the sad stories,” professor Tsuchida recalled. “We were so surprised by the spirit of people. They’re willing to do so much to get an education.”

“All of these stories are close to our hearts,” added professor Keating.

Professor Tsuchida explained that part of the problem is teachers’ pay. “In Cambodia the teachers are paid so little that they’re really like poverty wages.” He added that “in order to survive they’ve found ways to extort money from their students,” such as by charging them for lessons. “There’s all kinds of variations on the scam.”

A larger part of the problem is that many students are physically unable to get to school. Professor Keating recalled a particularly inspiring story about a student who walked four hours every day to get to and from school. She also mentioned a story from Cambodia in which a student could not get to school because “they could not afford a thirty dollar bicycle.”

Tsuchida added that “one of the big problems is that a lot of these countries are not putting enough money into education, into public education, for their people.” Keating agrees, adding that “the world needs better infrastructure for education.”

This book is both a reminder and an inspiration for students. On the one hand, it reminds us that our problems are first world problems. In lieu of the mess surrounding budget cuts in California, “at least we still have the open access to higher education” professor Tsuchida said. “I think it’s important to have this perspective.”

On the other hand, the book acknowledges the struggles of students everywhere. “You’re not alone, you know, other people are struggling too,” Keating said. “It is a global problem.” Tsuchida remarked that “a lot of students have found it moving and encouraging.”

Professor Keating and professor Tsuchida have sponsored several students in Southeast Asia over the years, giving them the opportunity to attend and finish school. For about fifteen dollars a month, they are able to send a student to school and reimburse the family for the loss of labor.

“One of the most absolutely worthwhile things we’ve ever done is to help somebody transform their own life,” said professor Tsuchida, further explaining that these students are far from helpless. “They just need that little bit of extra support to make it happen, which is exactly what student loans are for us.”

One student that they sponsored, My, whose three older brothers had to stop going to school, is now studying in Massachusetts with the U.S. Government Global Exchange Program. “She’s just taken off” professor Tsuchida said enthusiastically.
To learn how to help, to buy the book, or to view a free preview of the book, go to Nolunch.org.

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