April 2018. If you’re in Hue and open to checking out something a bit different from the typical tourist trail, why not take a walk down to The National Shchool (Truong Quoc Hoc), a handsome French era secondary school that is none of the most esteemed educational establishments in Vietnam.
April 2018. You can stroll right in through The National School’s main gate. Or at least I did, the security guard giving me nothing more than an extended yawn from his little booth. Truong Quoc Hoc dates back to the 1890s and in some ways it looks like little has changed since those days. The whole place is a bit rickety, crumby and peeling, the buildings painted in an arresting crimson red.
April 2018. The National School has quite the wall of fame when it comes to former pupils. A number of Vietnam’s most celebrated scholars and politicians hit the books here including General Vo Nguyen Giap (one of the greatest military strategists of the 20thcentury!), as well as former Prime Minister Minh Pham Van Dong. Even Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam’s founding father passed through with a year’s study in 1908. Resting in the stand overlooking the school’s dusty football field, I sat watching some students playing football and wondered if any of the players before me were also destined for greatness.
April 2018. I was crossing a run down playground with a volleyball net when a little boy attached himself to me, babbling away in Vietnamese. Every now and then he’d throw in some random English, “hello”,“very good”, “ok, ok, ok”, which, although amusing and charming, didn’t do anything to enlighten his narrative.
April 2018. A more revealing conversation came when I met Keung, a sober, softly spoken local boy studying French in his final year. Despite his pervading dourness, Keung told me that he loved coming to the school and that he was “very lucky”, having received some form of special sponsorship. I asked him what he wanted to do in the future and after an agonizing pause that I feared would never end he simply said “Paris”.
Hue’s National School can be accessed after the bell signals the end of the day at 17:00. It’s located on Le Hoi Street, about a one-kilometer walk from the city centre along the riverfront.
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