Mutual support in hard times

In the early 1950s, in response to the requirement of the revolution of the Lao people, Vietnam welcomed a number of Lao officers and soldiers to study at Military Cultural School T399. In 1958, the Secretariat of the Communist Party of Vietnam decided to establish the Central Boarding School, the predecessor of today’s Friendship School T78. During wartime, Lao students studying in Vietnam were arranged to live with local people. Therefore, they received not only knowledge from their teachers, but also support and love from the people living around the school.

At the event

The meeting started with a documentary, titled “The relationship which is deeper than Hong Ha (the Red River) and Cuu Long (the Mekong River),” jointly made by the Vietnam National Assembly Television and other agencies and organizations. In the first scenes of the documentary, Assoc. Prof., Dr. Somchan Bounphanmy, Deputy President of the Lao National University, burst into joy and was choked with emotion when seeing the uncle who had supported him to overcome hardships during his stay in Vietnam. Director of the Women and Children Advisory Department of the Lao Women's Union Central Committee Sulikhon Phommavongsa with tears rolling down her cheeks recalled the time when she was in Vietnam. At the time, Phommavongsa lived with an elder couple whose children were all in the military. To ensure that she was healthy enough to go to school, the couple sometimes had to go without food to spare the food for her.

The stories of Somchan Bounphanmy and Sulikhon Phommavongsa were so touching that many delegates at the event could not hold their tears since they found themselves in those stories. They were the ones who used to live with local Vietnamese people and received love and wholehearted and impartial support from the teachers and locals.

“When I saw the images of comrades meeting their old teachers and visiting the homes of the people with whom they used to live during their stay in Vietnam in wartime, I was very moved. Those were in deed unforgettable memories,” said Chairman of the Lao National Assembly Saysomphone Phomvihane.

When sharing his own unforgettable memories in Vietnamese, Saysomphone Phomvihane was moved with eyes dewing with tears. The Lao top legislator remembered his first arrival in Vietnam. That time, when he arrived in the school, it was 3a.m., and he was arranged to stay in a local woman’s home. Since her husband and children all were in the military, she had to shoulder the responsibility for family affairs. Understanding the woman’s hardships, comrade Saysomphone Phomvihane was eager to help, from cooking to ploughing, transplanting rice, harvesting rice, and cutting rice stubble. His deed came from the responsibility and admiration for Vietnamese men, who did not mind hardships and sacrifices to fight for peace and independence of Vietnam and Laos, so children could have the opportunity to go to school.

The Lao official affirmed that the arduous reality made the solidarity, love, attachment, wholehearted support, and mutual understanding between the two countries and the two peoples stronger than ever. 

Important pillar in bilateral cooperation

The most touching moment of the meeting was the reunion of former teachers and their students. When old teachers stepped on the stage, many former Lao students in Vietnam rushed to hold them and keep inquiring after them and recalling their memories.

“Today's meeting is extremely special and emotional. I hope that Friendship School T78 and the school's Lao Alumni Liaison Board will continue to hold this meaningful event to offer generations of Lao students the opportunity to express their gratitude to their teachers and promote the good traditions of the two nations, especially contribute to raising future generations’ awareness of their responsibilities in inheriting, preserving, cultivating, and handing the great friendship and special solidarity between Vietnam and Laos down to future generations,” said the Lao official.

According to National Assembly Chairman Vuong Dinh Hue, the Vietnamese Party, State, and National Assembly have considered and always consider the bilateral cooperation in education and training an important pillar in the relationship between the two countries. Despite difficulties, the Vietnamese Party and State have strived to strengthen the facilities of Friendship School T78, given special support to the school’s teachers and students in their learning and teaching.

The Vietnamese top legislator believed that with the attention and facilitation of the leaders of the Party, State, and National Assembly of Vietnam, Friendship School T78 will continue to inherit and promote the good traditions in the coming time to deserve to be a trusted address for Lao students. It is also a testament to sustainable relationship and effective cooperation between Vietnam and Laos in the field of education and training over the past 65 years and in the future.

National Assembly Chairman Vuong Dinh Hue, his Lao counterpart Saysomphone Phomvihane, and teachers of Friendship School T78 and delegates at the event

At the event, I had the opportunity to sit next to Sysomphone, a young officer and a former Lao student in Vietnam. Sysomphone used to learn Vietnamese at Friendship School T78 and later continued his major at the National Economics University. Now he is an official of the Laos-Vietnam Inter-governmental Committee. The young official could not hide his emotions when listening to the former generation’s unforgettable memories of love, care, sharing, and mutual support of the Vietnamese and Lao people during the most difficult and fiercest period of resistance wars. “I always miss my Vietnamese teachers. I sincerely hope that one day I can go to Vietnam to visit them again,” Sysomphone told me.   

I was also moved when witnessing the reunion moment of the teachers and their students. I believed that the Vietnamese and Lao people will always bear in mind the special relationship and mutual support of the two sides in the most difficult time and pass them down to future generations.

Translated by Tran Hoai