A visually impaired student in Ho Chi Minh City has topped every one of her classes for the past 11 years, prompting her peers to call her “Alien” in admiration for her out-of-this-world performance.
Le Thi Minh Tuyen, a twelfth grader at Nguyen An Ninh High School in Ho Chi Minh City, is widely admired at school for the effort she’s put into achieving such outstanding academic results.
Tuyen was at the helm of all her classes in elementary school, ranked amongst the top five students at her middle school, and topped each of her grade-levels throughout high school.
She has also been the recipient of prizes at several literature contests for high school students in Ho Chi Minh city and various other cities and provinces in Southern Vietnam.
“Tuyen’s strong points lie in her sensitivity towards literary texts and grasping social issues. Her friends compare her to an ‘alien,’” said Nguyen Dinh Khoa, her literature teacher.
Tuyen’s left eye suffers from inborn retinal detachment, a condition where the retina is completely separated from the eye, and her right eye has myopia of -25 diopters.
When her parents got divorced four years ago, she went to live with her siblings and father, Le Van Hung, in order to lend a hand in caring for her 89-year-old great grandmother.
Hung said Tuyen was sent to a school for children with disabilities in grade 1, but found the lessons to be too easy. From grade two through high school, Tuyen studied at regular schools.
She can write and read with ease but must bend herself close over a book in order to make out the words.
At school, her teachers often print exam questions on A3 size paper instead of A4 to fit larger fonts to offer visual aid.
“I can’t see the blackboard so I usually have a friend read it for me. If she’s busy, I borrow her notebook and copy it later,” Tuyen said.
Getting to school isn’t so easy either.
In order to avoid accidently boarding the wrong bus or getting off at the wrong stop, Tuyen typically walks to school.
“I really admire Tuyen’s perseverance. She always asks teachers and friends about a problem until she understands it,” praised one of her classmates.
School wasn’t always easy for Tuyen.
She was often treated differently from the other students in elementary and middle school.
It wasn’t until she entered high school that she began to integrate with her class.
Finally nearing the end of her K-12 education, Tuyen is preparing for her next step: university.
She plans to study law and is currently preparing for college by improving her English and computer skills, as well as introducing herself to the Chinese language.
And of course, like any teenager, she hopes college will give her the opportunity to reduce her reliance on her family by allowing her the opportunity to find a part-time job and live away from home, even if she stays in Ho Chi Minh City.
“Living in a rented room is the start of an independent life. So it’s not reasonable to keep receiving money from parents,” she said.
Tuyen’s father has a simple expectation for his daughter.
“I hope she has a stable job near my house. That’s enough.”