Last update: 11:00 | 03/12/2017
VietNamNet Bridge – A school with some of the prettiest - and toughest - students in North Vietnam recently celebrated its 100th birthday. One of its pupils was Le Thi, later to become a professor. She was one of two girls who hoisted the National Flag at Vietnam’s first independence day at Ba Dinh historical square on September 2,1945.
Hero: President Ho Chi Minh with Trung Vuong students. Photos courtesy of Trung Vuong Secondary School
Thousands of students and ex-students from Trung Vuong School, formerly known as Dong Khanh, flocked from Vietnam and abroad last week to Hanoi to join a grand celebration for the school’s 100th anniversary (1917-2017).
National Assembly Chairwoman Nguyen Thi Kim Ngan attended, awarding an Independence Order, First Class, to the school. “The State recognises the school for its great contributions to education in Hanoi and the country,” she said.
She also witnessed the release of a postal stamp collection on Dong Khanh-Trung Vuong, which includes images of the school, President Ho Chi Minh with school students and many others. The collection will be published and put on sale in 192 countries.
The school’s old name was the Girls School of Dong Khanh, which was established in 1917.
Vien Thi Thuan, 94, is one of the few living ex-students of Dong Khanh, once the only secondary school for girls in the north of the country. She said the image of pretty, dreamy, innocent and slender school girls in their white ao dai (women’s traditional long robes) was an unforgettable memory for many old Hanoians. Many male students from other schools often came around to look or peep at girls when class was over.
Unforgettable: Ninety four year old Vien Thi Thuan, an ex-student of Dong Khanh girls school, dreams of the old days.
To enroll at the school, students had to pass many strict examinations. “At the school, apart from learning lessons - and French - we learned domestic sciences, such as housework, cooking, needlework and household arts, such as singing, playing the piano and physical training,” Thuan said. In addition, the school taught students embroidery, how to bathe and take care of new born children - and how to spend time in their daily lives.
The ex-Dong Khanh student recalled: “At that time, we had a romantic life. We often exchanged views and noted love poems in our books. I had a friend, a daughter of a doctor. She felt in love with a handsome physics teacher. But she was very shy when discovered by her friends. Her sadness after her unrequited love finally ended when the teacher married another girl remains in notes by my friends of the time,” said Thuan.
Another of Thuan’s classmates was Le Thi, one of the two Dong Khanh schoolgirls who hoisted the national flag at Vietnam’s first Independence Day at Ba Dinh Square on September 2, 1945. Le Thi later became a professor.
Comrades in arms: Le Thi (white dress) and Tay woman Dam Thi Loan were given the unparalleled honour of being the first people to hoist the national flag at the historic Ba Dinh Square on Vietnam’s first Independence Day, September 2 1945. -- Photo courtesy of Le Thi
After the August Revolution against the French colonialists in 1945, the school was renamed as Trung Vuong, the name of the country’s first heroines to fight against the northern aggressors.
In winter 1946, at the school itself, many revolutionary fighters, including Dong Khanh schoolgirls, bravely struggled against the French. Twenty four young students died in the battle to defend the city.
During the anti-American war, many Trung Vuong students left their text books to join the fight. Many of them bravely sacrificed themselves for the country, including female writer Duong Thi Xuan Quy and artist Vo Thi Phuong Thao. As a mark of his respect for the fight put up by the students, President Ho Chi Minh visited the school five times, telling school teachers to practise well and students to learn well.
“The Trung Vuong Secondary School is my second family. We received great love from our teachers, who always showed enthusiasm in teaching us,” said lawyer Dang Tuyet Vinh, an ex-student of the school.
“We all are proud of our 100-year-old school, which my mother, aunt, elder and younger sisters attended. I still remember the boisterous drumbeats every morning as my home is opposite the school. With only just a short dash to make, I could enter the cool and fresh schoolground under ancient trees. The brown roof tiles, high doors and large corridors completed the picture of the old school.”
“In third grade, I thanked my home-room teacher, Nguyen Thi Nhung, who spent much effort helping me writing each letter and improving my maths. As a result, I earned marks nines and tens all year. Seven years studying at Trung Vuong was the most happy time of my childhood. Time has passed, but we’ll never forget the green leaves of the old trees, the loud drumbeats and rattling of the trams that used to run along Hang Bai Street to Hoan Kiem Lake,” Vinh said.
All in white: Female students in the old days.
One of Vinh’s beloved teachers was Vu Huu Binh, who spent more than 30 years teaching maths. He said Trung Vuong was proud to have trained many maths students for Vietnam, noting that the talent included Hoang Xuan Sinh, Vietnam’s first doctor in maths, and Ngo Bao Chau, the youngest professor in the country and the first Vietnamese awarded the Fields Maths Prize.
One of the old students was Hoang Le Minh, the first Vietnamese to win a gold medal at the International Maths Olympic Contest in 1974. Other students later won gold medals in maths and physics at the International Olympic Contests such as Dam Thanh Son, Dinh Si Quang, Vu Ha Van, and Dao Hai Long.
School principal Tran Thi Thanh Thao said: “We take pride in training thousands of talented students and providing quality personnel for the country.”
Nguyen Mai Ha Linh, one of Binh’s outstanding students, said: “Our teacher was great. I was very lucky to learn much from him apart from knowledge, such as pleasant behavior and a healthy lifestyle. His kindness will always be in our minds.”
Ho Thu Hang, one of Binh’s colleagues, said: “When I moved to work at Trung Vuong from Bac Giang Province, I met many difficulties. Binh encouraged me and lent me books and documents. I’m grateful to him. I later was assigned to teach specialised maths classes. Many of my students won high prizes at International Maths Competition.”
Apart from receiving the Le Van Thiem Maths prize in 1999, Binh was awarded the People’s Teacher title by the State in 2002 for his great contribution to education.
Besides teaching, Binh has written 167 books on maths. Each year he wrote four to 10 books and joined writing textbooks for secondary schools.
Le Hanh, 76, from Hoa Binh Province, said Binh’s books were very helpful in his family’s education.
Teacher Lai Cao Dang from the Nguyen Binh Khiem Secondary School in Dak Lak said most maths books on his bookshelf were Binh’s. Doan Cong Hoang, a student in Hanoi’s Lai Yen Village in Dan Phuong District, said because his family was poor, they could not join extra classes so they often borrowed Binh’s books from the village library to learn maths at home.
Trung Vuong was the first public school in Hanoi to apply the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) method in 2012, said principal Tran Thi Thanh Thao. Professor Nguyen Minh Thuyet said STEM was not an independent subject, but an activity that reflected all school subjects and helped deal with reality.
Lecturer Mac Thi Thanh Binh, said teachers had to continuously prepare things and be creative to serve students. “We often organise field trips for teachers to keep up to date by attending exhibitions or events on science and technology,” she said.
As a result, more than 800 students have joined STEM and more than 100 have been granted a certificate by the National Office of Intellectural Property of Vietnam.
The principal said the school aimed to renovate teaching and was co-operating with foreign countries with prestige education, such as Singapore, the United States, Britain, Japan, France and Australia to enable teachers to access modern education methods.
Back home: Thousands of students flocked to the 100th anniversary of the Dong Khanh-Trung Vuong School.
Honour: One of several stamps made to honour the old school.
Cheers: Festivities at the grand celebration.