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17/08/2010 - 11:02
Poor rural children blaze education trail

HA NOI — University entrance exams can be intimidating to many high school students, whose futures greatly rely on the exam results. Many students carry different dreams that help to shape their future.

Few people had ever heard of Dang Nhat Phi, 18, besides his neighbours in Dien Chau District of Nghe An Province until Phi passed the Ha Noi Foreign Trade University entrance exam with a perfect score.

He also passed the Ha Noi Medical University exam with a score of 24.5 (the maximum score is 30).

Phi was raised by a family that earned an average income per month of VND300,000 (US$16). His mother is a genuine farmer and has a record of heart disease. Phi's family income relies solely on his father, who is a construction worker.

Besides school work, Phi and his brother often helped their parents by working in the fields. Phi also worked part-time with his father at construction sites for extra income.

Although he had a tough life, Phi has always been a great student. He earned the first prize at Nghe An's high school students math competition earlier this year.

Phan Xuan Hoai, deputy chairman of Dien Chau People's Committee, who lives in the same village with Phi, said Phi didn't have an opportunity to take university preparation courses in big cities such as Ha Noi or Vinh like many of his friends did.

"He's earned such great achievements. Phi is a bright example for many students to follow."

Great examples

Le Thi Minh Vuong and Pham Van Khanh were both born in poor families in Ung Hoa District in the suburbs of Ha Noi. They studied for three years together in the same class at Ung Hoa High School and both earned the highest scores to enter the Ha Noi Medical University and the Ha Noi University of Technology, respectively.

Vuong is the third child in a farmer family with five children. Two of her sisters are studying at the Ha Noi University of Technology and another sister is studying at the village's junior high school. Her youngest and only brother is four years old.

Le Van Dai, Vuong's father, said: "She's the smartest kid in the family. If it takes four hours for her sisters to solves10 math problems, it normally takes Vuong only two hours."

When Vuong was in the fifth grade, she received the second prize at the Ha Tay Province's student competition. She received an award certificate and VND200,000 ($11). "It was the biggest award during my academic career," she said and smiled.

As Vuong entered high school, her sisters started going to college. Her parents had to support both of them so the family funds, which were supported by their farm, became even tighter. In order to earn more income, her father had to work as a security guard for a factory in the centre of Ha Noi and only came home once a week.

With two of her sisters studying away, her father working in Ha Noi and a new-born baby in the house, Vuong had to help her mom with al the hardest work in their home, including harvesting, cooking and cleaning.

"I went to class in the morning and did housework in the afternoon. I usually tried to study at night," she said.

Vuong didn't have much time for studying or money to buy the necessary books for school, but she was very diligent and managed her time efficiently. During her three years in high school, she always ranked the first or second in her class. Last year, Vuong won the fourth prize at the Ha Noi's student chemistry competition.

Understanding Vuong's financial burdens, Vuong's biology teachers offered to give her free biology lessons in order to help her prepare for the university entrance exam.

Pham Thi Lan, Vuong's mother, said: "We were so poor and couldn't support her studies much, so I only wanted her to graduate from high school." But she couldn't have been happier when Vuong received her test results from the university entrance exam.

Vuong was admitted to the Ha Noi Foreign Trade University, but she decided to go to medical school.

"I want to be able to treat the people surrounding me," she said.

A classmate of Vuong, Khanh received his test results while he was catching slugs in his family's rice field. He passed the Ha Noi University of Technology (HUT)'s entrance exam with an almost perfect score of 29.5.

Khanh's father suffers from a mental illness so his family has a very limited income. A few days before the exam, Khanh still had to work on the farm to help his mother. His mother was so proud of him and said in tears: "He didn't want me to work alone. I told him to go back home and study, but he refused and said he could manage it."

"And we know that he was right when he passed the exam," his mom said with a smile.

Challenges ahead

Now after passing the university entrance exams, Phi, Vuong and Khanh had new challenges ahead of them: how to financially support themselves during college.

Phi's parents said they would sell their little cow and receive assistance from his uncles and aunts.

While Vuong said she would stay in the dormitory and find a tutoring job to support her own studies, Khanh said he would spend the rest of the summer doing farming work to save money before moving to Ha Noi. — VNS
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