A diminutive Vietnamese university student has ridden a children’s bike to university, ambitiously pursuing his career in computing.
Duong Van Thanh, 21, born in Quang Tri Province, north-central Vietnam, is a senior in information systems at the Ho Chi Minh City University of Information Technology, a prestigious higher-education institution in Vietnam.
Unlike many of his peers, he has a modest height of 80cm and weighs only 30kg.
He has a congenital spine distortion, with two feeble legs that do not allow him to walk on his own.
At nine months old, he was diagnosed with inborn heart condition, forcing him to undergo surgery.
His feet, which are ill-proportioned and unusually shaped, have been bare since childhood for no shoes can fit them.
“A doctor once gave me a tailor-made pair of slippers when I was receiving bone readjustment, but I didn’t get used to it, so I gave it up,” Thanh said.
Long scars from several operations run on his feet, which reveal a hollow where a nail used in medical treatment was driven.
One such object still remains fixed in his foot as his family did not have sufficient money for the removal, he said.
“If I happen to hit my feet against something, I’ll find it incredibly painful and have to sit for a while before standing up again,” he said.
His ambition is to become a computer engineer, which has motivated him to persevere in studying at all educational levels with a successful academic performance.
A company has promised to employ him, an opportunity he is extremely grateful for.
“The important thing I need to do now is study and improve my skills,” he said with excitement.
He has received a great deal of help from those around him, especially his mother.
She piggybacked him to school as a child, crossing many streams before arriving at his classroom on the second floor of his elementary school building, he recalled.
His schoolmates also assisted him and on rainy days, they may fall off the bicycle when navigating a slippery dirt road before arriving at the class, drenched and cold, he said smilingly at the memory.
During his time as a college student, he pedaled his bicycle to the school over one kilometer away from the on-campus dormitory in which he is residing with those having similar disabilities as him.
His family first moved to Ho Chi Minh City when he started studying, but later his father had to return to his hometown, Quang Tri Province, to earn a livelihood.
His young brother has worked in the city, and his mother stayed in the dormitory with him but also went back to the province since his father was injured whilst working.
Now he has to manage things by himself.
“When my mom was still here, I was taken care of. I ate rice gruel cooked by her when I was sick; took the medicine bought by her,” Thanh said.
“It’s most wonderful to have my mom.”
Among his wishes is the desire to have a bus ride, since he is not allowed to bring the bike with him aboard.
He thinks he is blessed with his family.
“Many people born with birth defects are abandoned by their parents at a young age. But I’m different. I am taken care of by my parents, who afford to give me a decent formal education. To me, that is so lucky,” he said.
“Thanh has surmounted every problem arising from his situation. In my view, he sets a good example of a student overcoming difficulties to shine academically,” said Phan Thanh Chuong, one of his lecturers.