Can Tho to demolish colonial school following France's notice

By Tien Trinh – Thu Ha, Thanh Nien News

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Chau Van Liem High School is one of the two built by French in the Mekong Delta, the other in Tien Giang. File photo Chau Van Liem High School is one of the two built by French in the Mekong Delta, the other in Tien Giang. File photo


The public in Can Tho is mourning a school of nearly 100 years old as the city plans to knock it down to start building a new one this year, saying it acts upon safety warning from France.
French people built the school in 1917 and named it Collège de Can Tho, which gave it the colonial architecture of the 20th century and made it a part of the Mekong Delta city’s history.
But the city government is going to spend VND98 billion (US$4.5 million) to replace that history.
The city’s education department is calling for bids.
It expects work to start by the end of August and finish in early 2017, saying it will make sure construction preserves the old design.
During that time, the teachers and around 1,000 students will use another school in the city.
Chau Van Liem is now one of the major schools in the Mekong Delta, known for its high quality education.
Local researches said its former students include many scientists, artists and revolutionists like Chau Van Liem, who died in 1930 at 28 years old while leading a demonstration against French colonization.
The school named itself after him in 1985.
Keep it or leave it?
A Chau Van Liem High School teacher points to a broken window on a damaged wall of a classroom. Photo credit: Tuoi Tre
Many former students have come to take photos of the school upon hearing about the demolition.
“We won’t see it again,” one of them said.
Vo Khac Tam, who graduated in 1988, said he and his friends supported the city plan to bring down the school because its time is up.
Tam, who is an architect, said that restoration will not guarantee safety for teachers and students there.
“There are other ways to keep its beautiful memories,” he told Tuoi Tre.
But Le Van Quoi, who taught at the school for 39 years, said he believes that restoration is a feasible solution, citing evidence of Nguyen Dinh Chieu High School in the delta’s Tien Giang Province, Le Hong Phong and Le Quy Don in Ho Chi Minh City, which are still serving well at colonial ages.
“If we can restore it and strengthen it, please do.”
Tran Trong Khiem, director of the city’s education department, said the city has considered all options including restoration.
But the French embassy sent two engineers last year and they said that the school could not be restored.
Khiem said the city already received warning from France in 1987 that it should not continue using the school.
“We have organized meetings, conducted surveys and checked the school’s condition carefully. We decided to build it anew because it is too old to be restored.”

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