LONG XUYEN AND THE TIME OF ELEMENTARY SCHOOL

Extracted from “The stories about Uncle Ton”
    An Giang Cultural Information Service’s Publishing House

 It is probably said that no matter where one went to, the lullaby songs of the mother, the aunts were still always heard vaguely even when Uncle was a baby. Uncle Ton was born on 20 August 1888 at Ong Ho Islet, My Hoa Hung, Long Xuyen City, An Giang Province. His father was Mr. Ton Van De, his mother was Mrs. Nguyen Thi Di. They were laborious plain peasants. They spent all their life-spans to make their current fortune. The house where Ton Duc Thang was born was a house on stilts, board-walls, double tiles roof. The house interior decoration was done in the Southern ancient countryside style, surrounded by bamboo, flute, coconut hedges.

    Born in a middle-peasant family, even in the childhood, Uncle Ton was decided by His parents to have to learn to the very end to glorify the ancestry. Therefore, they sent Ton Duc Thang to His maternal grandparents at Long Xuyen – An Giang to learn Han scripts with Master Nguyen Thuong Khach. This person was a patriotic scholar, a member of Dong Kinh Nghia Thuc movement. He was also Ton Duc Thang’s first teacher. Beside the time of teaching Han script, Master Nam Khach also told Ton Duc Thang many stories about patriotic righteous men as Truong Dinh, Nguyen Trung Truc, Thu Khoa Huan and the patriotic tradition, anti-invaders of An Giang peoples over generations. From those, a lot of questions arose in the head of young Ton Duc Thang that: “Why do foreigners come to, govern, our country? Why could the Westerners kill our people any time? What is poll-tax? Why do our people have to pay poll-tax as cows or buffaloes? What do the French do with our people’s tax…?”   It were such “why” questions that when older, Ton Duc Thang gradually understood the situation as well as the reason why the French invaded our country and why the South fell into their hand.

    Factually, Ton Duc Thang learnt Han script with Master Nam Khach in only a short time but the main purpose was that Master Nam Khach taught Ton Duc Thang the moral philosophy. It was this that form a Young Ton Duc Thang to love justice, to hate unfairness.

    Having the first son praised to be intelligent by everybody, Ton Duc Thang’s parents did not regret any effort to assist him to learn. At that time, Ong Ho Islet had no schools. The whole province had only one elementary class held at Long Xuyen. Therefore, Ton Duc Thang kept staying at his maternal land to learn.
    At rest, returning to Ong Ho Islet, Ton Duc Thang often rowed boats prop roofs, uncover fish-traps on fishing-boats on the native river. Particularly, Ton Duc Thang loved to eat catfish or anabas cooked with brine in pot, added a lot of pepper, bringing moreish taste. Afterwards, being a President, He brought the native meal to Ha Noi or in the middle of Soviet Russia.

    The provincial education officer at that time was a French. Assistant of him was a Vietnamese named Phan Van Ngan, a teacher of 5th grade. Ton Duc Thang was fond of learning, but he did not accept the thought to underestimate native peoples of the French officer. At a time, when in queue to class, the teacher called him, he did not hear and continue to go, the teacher grabbed his hair to pull back. Ton Duc Thang threw his hand and said:

    “My head is for my parents, none can grab it”.

    On the next day, Ton Duc Thang has a shave his head and told his friends:

    “I shaved my head. Would you like to do the same?”

    Ton Duc Thang was known in the school for his self-respect, straightness, audacity. One day, seeing the French officer punishing his two friends to kneel under hot summer noon for hours because they dared to pick remaining tamarind on the tree, Ton Duc Thang was angry, saying:

    “Are some tamarind fruits precious than human-life? I call you, playing truant tomorrow, going to Thot Not. Such a brutal punishment must be discarded.”

    On the next day, all pupils of the 5th grade played truant. We can see that, right from the childhood, Ton Duc Thang proved to be a righteous, upright teenager with clear love or hatred. When he loved someone, he could devoted to that person. When he hated someone, he showed it openly. The resistance against injustice began from Ton Duc Thang time of school.

    Over the stories on Uncle’s childhood, today youth must openly show their opinion on the rightness, wrongness in living as well as in working.

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