Life Life

12/01/2019 - 09:19

Open “the door to the future” for students

“I used to grow up in poverty and have acknowledged how important learning is. Therefore, I will try my best to help the poor students”, shared Assoc. Prof. Dr. Nguyen Thien Tong, a Hue’s son living in Ho Chi Minh city, Chairman of the Thua Thien Hue “Give strength to students” (Tiep suc den truong) club.

Vice Chairman of the Provincial People’s Committee Nguyen Dung (right) gives flowers to honor the contributions of Assoc. Prof. Dr. Nguyen Thien Tong (outermost left)

Maturing from poverty

When he was young, because of the poverty, his parents tramped about the highland of Quang Tri through thick and thin and gave birth to him there. Called it a meal but in fact, it was a mixture of a little rice with potatoes and cassavas. This has obsessed his mind until now.

“My parents sent me to school since that time. The very first class was in the communal house, without any table of chair. After moving to Hue, although it was still very strenuous but luckily I could go to school properly”, Assoc. Prof. Dr. Nguyen Thien Tong remembered.

Passing the high-school finals in 1965, the young man Thien Tong received a scholarship to Australia to learn aeronautic engineering at Sydney University and excellently came first in the graduation exams. Thanks to those efforts, he was granted a doctoral scholarship. After finishing the course, while many other wanted to stay in Australia, he determinedly chose to come back to the homeland. He is also the first one laying the foundations for the aeronautic engineering of Vietnam at that time. (Now it is taught in HCM University of Technology).

After a long time being stable with the job of researching and teaching, Assoc. Prof. Dr. Nguyen Thien Tong has always been fixated on his miserable childhood. Therefore, he decided to “pay the way” to come back to his homeland to help those who are suffering the circumstances like what he used to be.

Every year, at the start of a new school year, that old teacher stays patient to write many different emails to mobilize sponsors for the scholarship “Give strength to Thua Thien Hue freshmen”. Gradually, he has received many encouraging replies for the scholarship, mostly from his acquaintances at home and abroad, especially from the aeronautic engineering ex-students who received his teaching and instructions.

The subscription reaches billions of VND and it gradually increases year  by year. Then he calculates, allocates it carefully and hands over the money to each specific case personally. Frequently, each freshman has to write a letter expressing their situation if they want to get this scholarship; and he always reads it very carefully.

“With some letters, I could not hold back my tears. I really cannot image that there are students who have to suffer from those miserable and sorrowful circumstances. Some students are fatherless or motherless; and, even some are orphans. Some students still have parents but they are suffering from fatal illnesses so that everything are all spent …” Assoc. Prof. Dr Nguyen Thien Tong pitied. From those cases, he saw his silhouette of the old day. Behind each scholarship is a story showing the ways that the freshmen overcome difficulties in life to pursue their dreams of going to school and escape poverty.

Repaying homeland for its service

Thanks to receiving scholarship from Prof. Tong, many young people who seemed to have to stop their learning now have gotten success in life. Nguyen Thi Ngoc Phuong (26 years old) – working in an English Center in Hue city is one of them.

Phuong remembered that when she received the news of her passing university exam in 2010, she did not think about continuing to go to school because of the extreme poverty of her family. At that time, an acquaintance introduced Phuong to Prof. Tong; and thanks to the scholarship of that year, the door into the future re-opened with this young lady.

Do not stop with that scholarship, but in the following 4 years, Prof. Tong also sought and introduced to Phuong many other scholarships to help her pursue the learning. In return, after each semester, Phuong always updated the study results and shared her plans after graduation to receive Prof. Tong’s orientations. Not only Phuong but also those who have received the scholarships do the same thing.

Assoc. Prof. Dr. Nguyen Thien Tong comes back to Hue many times each year; and he always uses those chances to make appointments with the students to whom he awarded the scholarship. Although the meeting was short, to many students, it was always the happy moments to see and share stories with their “fairy”.

“To me, Assoc. Prof. Dr. Nguyen Thien Tong is always a respectable person whom I always show my deep gratitude to and respect for till the end of my life. Without him, I cannot pursue my dream, cannot graduate and get a stable job like this. To me, Prof. Tong is like a father, …”, Phuong shared in an emotion.

The benevolence of Assoc. Prof. Dr. Nguyen Thien Tong and the sponsors responding to his callings to help the homeland have given strength to many poor students not to quit their learning aspiration. Still, sometimes the amount of subscription is not enough to award scholarships to all of the students because “despite of the poverty, many students have learned extremely well, and I cannot bring myself to ignore them”. Therefore, in addition to sending open letters to familiar email addresses of acquaintances, friends, ex-students and Hue lovers, etc., Prof. Tong also posts his open letter on his Facebook page, too.

Reading those “sincere sharing”, many strangers have given their supports. Depending on the value of 7 million or 10 million per scholarship, Prof. Tong suggests that if the sponsor could not donate the amount of money for a full portion, s/he can give half of it or even some hundred thousand VND - as much as possible. Some days before awarding the scholarships, if the money is not in round figure, he “gives order” to his family members to donate to achieve it.

Half in jest, he said to the students who received the scholarships: “Those money is not for free, it is the investment for the future, which you borrow preferentially, and you would pay it back voluntarily by helping the poor juniors in the future”.

“Although being a famous scientist and a famous aviation researcher of Vietnam, who is always up to his ears in work, Assoc. Prof. Dr. Nguyen Thien Tong  - a Hue’ son still turns to his homeland and the poor students. Thanks to Prof. Tong, many students’ fates have changed, from facing to illiteracy to being given  strength to pursue their dreams and getting stable jobs, many of them have gotten success in life”, Mr. Nguyen Van Me, Chairman of the Provincial Study Promotion Association said.

By Phan Thanh