“Heroic” families overcome hardship with education

In late April, when celebrations were held nationally to mark Liberation Day (April 30), Sai Gon Giai Phong visited two “heroic” families in Ho Chi Minh City. Both had overcome poverty to create a bright future.

Stepping forward despite poverty

Living by the inky-black canal in a working quarter in District 8, is a family of eight who used to be terribly poor, but who now all hold a university bachelor degree or higher.

Discolored as the house-walls are, they seemed to be brighter with certificates of merits for outstanding achievements at school.

Nguyen Bich Thuy, 73, is well aware how hard she and her husband struggled to bring up a family and give them a good education.

About 50 years ago, Thuy’s landlord family in Ca Mau Province donated hundreds of hectares of land to the revolutionary government.

Soon after, Thuy, with few possessions, left her beloved Trem River for Saigon, where she met and married a poor barber, Nguyen Van On, a native of Ben Tre Province.

The economic burden of a poor large family changed Thuy’s life. From a well-to-do young lady, she became a woman who toiled with various odd jobs to help her husband to support their family.  
She recalled, “My husband and I could not make enough money for our family. We never forget nights when we counted each single penny earned or an early chilling morning when I, without sweaters, went to hospital to give birth.”

Holding her mothers’ hardened hands with care, one of her daughters, Nguyen Thi Thu Nguyet, confined, “We went to school on foot, even bare feet, during many school years. At home, girls helped mom with housework and boys hawked bread. Sweet potatoes and corn were familiar food at that time. Nonetheless, all of us tried to get along well at school.”

Their great efforts paid off, with many rewards given to them for their good performance at school. This not only made their parents happy but also partly helped save costs on their study, 

Mrs. Thuy said, “It is hard to do anything good without education. So we were determined to maintain our children’s study so that they can become well-educated and have an opportunity to get out of poverty.”

As a result, the couple’s eight children have graduated from universities with degrees in medicine, pharmacy and economics, among others. They also obtained many scholarships, even for overseas training.

Mrs. Thuy’s children have become doctors, engineers and company directors, but they still lead a simple and thrifty life, as they had before. This seems one of Mrs. Thuy’s greatest pleasures, a mother who sacrificed her life for a much better future for her children.

In her spare time, Mrs. Thuy took part in social activities and was admitted to the Communist Party when she was over 40.

Eager to succeed

Saying good-bye to Mrs. Thuy’s family, we arrived in Binh Thanh District, to visit Nguyen Dinh Luan’s family, whose 30-square-meter house is in a small lane.

Mr. Luan and his wife, whose family was awarded a certificate of merit for their tradition of eagerness for learning by the HCM City People's Committee chairman Le Hoang Quan (Photo: SGGP).

Small as their house is, it was home to as many as nine bachelors or masters in medicine, pharmacy, architecture, economics and law.

Mr. Luan said, “Parents are ready to suffer from hardship, as long as their children are educated and advance in life. We are not an exception. We came to Saigon with the hope that our children can have opportunities to advance.”

In late April 1975, young engineer Nguyen Dinh Luan took his wife and nine children from Hue City to Saigon to settle down.

Without finding a suitable job, he worked as a freelance translator and tutor, while his wife took a job as seamstress, but they could not make enough money for their large family. Therefore, after school, their children had to take various odd jobs to make money.
Mr. Luan is fluent in many foreign languages, including English, Spanish and French. He said, “You should learn foreign languages so you can understand what westerners say.”

Mr. Luan said he both worked and studied to perfect his knowledge and skills. So did his wife, who managed to get a bachelor in law after getting married. 

“Our efforts in learning seem to create a tradition of eagerness for learning for our children to follow,” he said.

Nguyen Thi Lan Dai, one of their daughters, said, “Despite our poor living conditions, we all tried our best to gain big achievements in our schooling.”  

Their efforts paid off. Now they are all intellectuals and fluent in at least one foreign language. Five of them hold two university degrees.   

Recently, HCM City People’s Committee chairman Le Hoang Quan presented Mr Luan’s family a certificate of merit for its tradition of eagerness for learning.

“Not to only bring up children, parents want their children to be well educated, to become useful and successful people in society. Only when this is done, parents can be satisfied with themselves,” Mr Luan confined.

By Tieu Ha - Translated by Quang Tho

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