Trần Hoàng Nam
The dreams of a young Japanese woman play out in a school in the central province of Quảng Nam every day.
Junko Primary School in Điện Phước Commune, Điện Bàn District is named after that Japanese woman, whose family paid to build it.
They did that because Junko had the noblest of dreams: to help others.
Hirotaro Takahasi (left), Junko's father, poses for a photo at Junko School's museum in his visit in May 2019. — Photo vov.vn
Realising a dream
Junko Takahasi was a third year student at the International Relations Department of the Meiji Gakuin University in Tokyo.
In 1993, she visited Việt Nam on an exchange programme. She came to poor areas in Quảng Nam and witnessed the children's difficult conditions, which she noted in her diary.
She wrote that after graduation, she wanted to work in Việt Nam and spend some of her salary building a school for the needy children.
Tragically, Junko was killed in a car accident in Japan a month later. She was only 20.
Her father Hirotaro Takahasi read the diary and saw that his daughter had wanted to help the Vietnamese kids.
“According to Japanese people’s customs, when a daughter turns 20, the family will organise a coming of age ceremony. The parents will give her some property," said headmaster Trần Công Trường.
“Her father runs a petrol company, so the family is wealthy.
"They used all their savings for Junko and the insurance payment from her accident to build a new school and equip it,” Trường said.
After consulting many organisations, in 1994, Takahasi brought US$200,000 to Việt Nam.
“At that time, Việt Nam was rather isolated to the rest of the world,” Takahashi told VnExpress online newspaper in an interview. “Spending money in such a country for a non-profit purpose was considered crazy.”
He examined dozens of schools in Quảng Nam before choosing one in Điện Phước District.
After Junko’s death, her university set up the Junko Association to collect money and property for the school.
In 1995, on the opening day for the new academic year at the newly-built school, Takahasi and his wife attended the ceremony and brought a portrait of his daughter, whose dreams had birthed a school fit for 950 pupils with eight classrooms and a gym.
Hirotaro Takahasi (sitting, middle) poses for a photo with children at the school under his daughter's name. — Photo vov.vn
Initially, the school was named Hoàng Hoa Thám until 2003, when locals proposed changing the name to Junko School.
At the school’s museum, Junko’s portrait was hung in a solemn corner with her biography being posted beside it.
In 2000, friends of Junko’s parents raised enough money to build five more classrooms.
Since then, Takahasi's family and members of the Junko Association visit the school once or twice every year, Trường said.
A Japanese volunteer presents gifts to children at the school. — Photo baoquangnam.vn
The association each year presents hundreds of grants worth $20 each to needy pupils in Quảng Nam Province and Đà Nẵng City, 20-30 grants of which are given to needy pupils at Junko School.
“The school built by the warm hearts of the passed away Junko, her family and friends is like a beautiful garden of Việt Nam-Japan friendship,” Trường said.
“The flowers have been watered for the past 20 years,” he said.
In the year 2000, Junko was the second school in the district to reach National Standard for 1996-2000.
The schoolyard also offers a place for local farmers to dry rice, maize and corn at harvest time, as well as shelter in flood season, Trường said.
Lê Văn Dinh, whose daughters used to go the school, could not hide his appreciation.
“Thanks Junko for building a new school for my daughters and local children,” he told Việt Nam News.
“The quality of teaching and learning has been improved much,” he said. “Children from neighbouring communes also come here to learn.”
Some of the school's former pupils have also been offered scholarships to study at universities in Japan.
Trần Thị Kim Oanh, a student from Đà Nẵng Foreign Language University, who got a scholarship to study in Japan said: “Junko Primary School has offered me a lot of chances to study. Though now I have graduated and found work, some friends and I are still joining volunteer works to help needy pupils to study better.
“Vietnamese people deserve to benefit from an adequate education to close the gap between the rich and the poor.”
All are thanks to one generous girl, and her devoted father. — VNS