Special teacher provides free lessons for 30 years

A handicapped man in the central province of Binh Dinh has been giving extra lessons for disadvantaged children in his hometown for the last 30 years, totally free of charge.

Thầy Hưng tập viết chữ cho cậu học trò nhỏ. Ảnh: Minh Minh.

Le Quoc Hung, despite suffering from ankylosing spondylitis that makes it impossibe for him to even sit, has dedicated his life to giving free lessons to poor children in the south central province of Binh Dinh. (source: VNE)

The ‘special teacher,’ as the locals call him, is Le Quoc Hung, 52, a resident of Tuan Le village, Phuoc Hiep Commune, Tuy Phuoc District.

Born to a poor farming household, Hung was ‘haunted’ from a very young age by the rare terminal diseases that local villagers contracted but did not have the money to treat. His dream was to go to Hue Medical School, become a good doctor and help his villagers.

But his dream was forever dashed in a cruel twist of fate, when he was in the 12th grade, just one year prior to the university entrance examinations. He began develop symptoms of ankylosing spondylitis – an inflammatory arthritis that gradually cause the vertebrae in the spine to ‘fuse’ – making him unable to sit properly.

It started with a numbing ache in the limbs, then swollen joints, and he struggled to move. Hung’s parents were devastated, but instead of losing hope, they spent every last penny of their savings to find a cure. It proved futile.

After 5 years of treatment with no hope of recovery, from an energetic, robust young man, Hung became miserable and avoided everyone.

“Sometimes, I just wanted to die, relieving my family of the burden that I had become. It pained me no end when my old parents had to take care of me when I was already a grown man. My life was bound by four walls,” he said, recounting the dark days to the Nông thôn ngày nay (Countryside Today) newspaper. “I felt useless. No dreams, no friends, no love.”

Roused to action

And then, one day, seeing children in the village so happy just to be able to go to school, despite their hungry stomachs and lack of basic needs, something in Hung snapped.

He realised that he could only wallow in self-pity for so long. “This is it,” he thought, “It’s time that I get up and start doing something useful.”

At 23, the age that Hung could have graduated from the medical school if the spine disease had spared him, he opened extra classes for poor children in the village right at home.

Nguoi thay tat nguyen 30 nam gieo chu cho tre em ngheo - Anh 2

By becoming a teacher, the handicapped man has found his light at the end of the tunnel (source: PLO)

He started his little project by borrowing textbooks from local children to figure out what is being taught in schools, and to find the best way to convey his knowledge to them.

“At first, there were only a few children who came. The house only had one bed, so I bought a mat in place of real desks."

At first, he only taught the poor children who didn’t have enough money to go to school, but gradually, his classroom was joined by an increasing number of students who wanted to understand better what they’d been taught at school.

It was not easy.

“It’s hard to have to constantly stand, but somehow I had to withstand the pain as I tried to teach.”

Over 30 years, after hearing of him through word of mouth, generations students have ‘graduated’ from his makeshift classes without having to pay a single cent.

As for the teacher himself, he lived humbly on the State allowance of VND400,000 (US$17.6) a month, and on the free meals that his neighbours gave him as a sign of appreciation.

In the room that is barely 20sq.m, three times a week, his class is packed with students as early as eight in the morning.

It is very difficult for Hung to move around, but he still pays inpidual attention to every student, helping them to write property, spell correctly, and make accurate calculations.

Le Hoang Liem, a 5th grade student of Tuan Le village, said studying with Hung was “a lot of fun,” so he could accquire the knowledge faster and more naturally.

“I can ask Teacher Hung problems and questions I can’t ask teachers at schools,” Liem said.

Students who live as far as 10 kilometres away from his home, have no hesitation to cover the long distance to study with the ‘special teacher.’

Nguyen Tan Dinh, vice chairman of the Phuoc Hiep Commune, has nothing but the highest praise for the dedicated special teacher.

“Hung is a brilliant example of extraordinary willpower to overcome hardship. Despite his unfortunate condition, he has brought joy and knowledge to generations of students. He’s truly someone worth looking up to,” Dinh said.

Teacher Hung’s only wish for now is to remain healthy enough to be able to teach for at least a few dozens of years more.

“My study was unfortunately cut short, so I want to dedicate my life to be a teacher for these children. Now, my unfulfilled dream would be vicariously achieved by them.

“There are students who have graduated from colleges, got a job and get married. Sometimes they came to visit me and they still call me ‘teacher,’ and that really makes me happy.”/.


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