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Yearbook photos celebrate poor Vietnameses parents’ devotion to their children’s education

Wednesday, September 02, 2020, 13:02 GMT+7
Yearbook photos celebrate poor Vietnameses parents’ devotion to their children’s education
A student in a graduation gown is seen next to her grandmother and siblings in Tien Giang Province, Vietnam. Photo: Pham Van Thong

Captured by their teacher as a gift, a collection of student graduation photos went viral on Facebook in Vietnam in mid-August thanks to its heartwarming depiction of the familial love between the high school graduates and their parents.

It portrays high school students in graduation gowns, holding a red diploma while their families are by their side, their faces glowing with satisfaction.

The photos were taken by Pham Van Thong, a geography teacher at Ngo Van Nhac High School in the Mekong Delta province Tien Giang. 

Taken after the national high school exam in early August, these portraits are Thong’s gift to celebrate his students’ accomplishments.

According to Thong, the majority of his students come from families that are floating around the poverty line; they can barely afford education for their children, let alone a graduation photoshoot.

As a way to commemorate the occasion, Thong brought up the idea of a photographic project with his students and their parents.

Most of the parents were excited about the idea of photographs marking such a momentous occasion in their children’s lives, Thong recollected.

Some of them did refuse to appear in the images for fear that their unsightly looks might be an embarrassment for their children. 

“However, most kids have talked their parents into appearing in front of the camera, to which they ultimately surrendered,” Thong recalled.

A student in a graduation gown is seen holding a duck, her family’s livelihood, while her mother holds a high school diploma. Photo: Pham Van Thong

A student in a graduation gown is seen holding a duck, her family’s livelihood, while her mother holds a high school diploma. Photo: Pham Van Thong

Moving between photoshoot sites proved to be a substantial challenge to Thong’s project since the locale is a remote one, where houses are scarcely dispersed.

For this reason, Thong and his student Nguyen Quang Huy had to spend a few days completing their intended work.

The teacher talked of those unforgettable snapshots from the life that his students and their families lead. 

Thong reminisced about the trip to the house of a female student and her 67-year-old grandmother. 

The student’s mother passed away when she was very young, meaning she had never met her mother, and her father moved out of town for work, leaving her alone with her grandmother in a remote house.

It takes a lot of work to get to her home over a long and bumpy road. 

“To this day, I still cannot fathom how she made it to school every day traveling on that road,” he exclaimed.

The photoshoot had to be paused halfway through because her grandmother burst into tears.

Her grandchild passed the exam, but she has no means to support further education for her, which means her grandchild would have to compromise her dreams.

A student in a graduation gown is seen walking next to her father on the rural field. Photo: Pham Van Thong

A student in a graduation gown is pictured walking next to her father on a rural field. Photo: Pham Van Thong

There is another student whose father sells lottery tickets for a living. The fact that his family is classified as a poor household did not stop the student from excelling in his studies.

He chose to apply to military school to have his tuition fee and subsistence expenses covered, and his hard work paid off in the entrance exam results.

“Rocky as their journey to education may be, their perseverance shone through, helping them conquer all obstacles,” Thong said.

The exam results of Thong’s students were welcomed with joyfulness by the teacher, yet at the same time, he was aware that the struggles of the kids have not ended. 

“Some will not be able to pursue further education due to their financial circumstances. It perturbs me that some of my students will face formidable obstacles in their next pursuits.”

A student in a graduation gown is seen fanning his father while he reads a high school diploma. Photo: Pham Van Thong

A student in a graduation gown is shown fanning his father while he reads a high school diploma. Photo: Pham Van Thong

Since his students have not yet received their diploma, Thong brought his own — one that he earned after graduating from high school 15 years ago – for them to use as a prop. 

“I did fight to earn this diploma. The same goes for them, their work was accompanied by the dedication of their parents. They deserve to see the achievements of their children on their graduation day.”

Quang Huy, the associate that contributed work to Thong’s project, said of his experience, “I’m very proud and happy to see photos of [my friends] standing next to their parents, whose hard work was the very reason for the success that they have today.” 

A student in a graduation gown is seen showing a high school diploma to his family. Photo: Pham Van Thong

A student in a graduation gown shows a high school diploma to his family. Photo: Pham Van Thong

A student in a graduation gown is seen using the stethoscope of his father in a medical clinic. Photo: Pham Van Thong

A student in a graduation gown is seen using the stethoscope of his father in a medical clinic. Photo: Pham Van Thong

A student in a graduation gown is seen next to his mother in front of the family’s altar. Photo: Pham Van Thong

A student in a graduation gown is shown next to his mother in front of the family’s altar. Photo: Pham Van Thong

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