In December 2009, Chi Ha-lim (Law, 4) saw a recruitment poster at the Law Building looking for tutoring volunteers for young single mothers at Aeranwon, a shelter for single mothers and their children.
“It seemed being a single mother results in wearing a scarlet letter in front of society forever. Especially for teenage single mothers who usually cannot go back to their school easily. I thought it is not right. I wanted to do something against that situation,” Chi said.
Chi has volunteered as a tutor since December 2009, teaching mathematics and skills for solving problems in the language section of the Korean Scholastic Aptitude Test. Though many volunteers at Aeranwon help with looking after the children of the single mothers or cleaning the rooms, she chose to be a tutor.
“Bill Gates donates billions of dollars since he is wealthy. I learn and gain knowledge everyday as a university student so I decided to help the single mothers with what I am experiencing every day – education.” Chi said.
So far, Chi has taught four students. The first mother assigned to Chi caused some problems, like resisting the officials and refusing to have a tutor. The second student, whom she met on last April, was a hard-working 18-year-old student who put her child up for adoption. She was preparing for the qualification exam for college entrance. Chi taught math to this student for four months and the student got a perfect score last August.
“When I saw her text message that read she got perfect score on the math subject, I was so thrilled.” Chi said.
After the thrill came frustration and disappointment. The 23-yearold student she met September had problems in concentrating on studying and could not stay still studying even for an hour. Despite Chi’s efforts to teach the student during her busy schedule, the student refused to study.
“I felt sorry. I felt like I did not open my mind to her as much as I did to the former student because of my stereotyping her condition, which kept her from studying hard. Maybe I should have opened up myself more and tried to be a more active tutor.” Chi said.
Chung Jai-sun (Philosophy, 4) also went through a lot of difficulties as a tutor for single mothers. Since she lived abroad for most of her life, she applied to become an English tutor in May 2010. She taught two 18-year-old students but she could not teach both of them for more than a month.
The first student assigned to her needed a score for the Test of English Proficiency developed by Seoul National University. The student was raising her child, and at the same time, she wanted to enter university.
“The first student was quiet. She wouldn’t really tell me whether she understood or not. As time went by, I realized that I was teaching too fast. It seemed my energetic attitude frightened her, too.” After a month, the student did not reply to Chung’s text messages or calls.
The second student was an 18-year old who had put her child up for adoption. She needed “spoon feeding” to learn English from basic phonetics. What made Chung distressful was the student’s tardiness. Unlike the former student, she seemed as if she did not have a goal.
“One time, she came late since she was dining with her friend she met at another academy. But I understood. It seemed she has never been taught how to study and how to be curious about learning.” Chung said.
Although her attempts to teach single mother students at Aeranwon were not as successful as she expected, she plans to continue her teaching at Aeranwon or for others who were deprived of opportunities to learn.
“I learned reality from this chance, in a sense. Being at Ewha probably means that you have been surrounded by a good education. But I learned that a lot of people don’t have this. If you want to teach or help them, you need to be patient and see through their eyes,” Chung said.
Relationship problems also sometimes rise between a university student tutor and a single mother tutee at Aeranwon, despite efforts to explain the psychological and physical situations of the single mothers to university student tutors. However, Aeranwon plans to continue to run these tutoring sessions, since they are helpful to both university students and single mothers.
“University students are also in the process of learning and they are young, which makes it easier for them to understand more about teenage single mothers. Active communication between the tutee and the tutor is the answer to relationship problems.” said You Eun-sung, a social worker at Aeranwon.