15-year-old boy saves 5 girls from drowning in central Vietnam

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 Le Van Duoc (C) and five girls he rescued from drowning on June 17 in the north-central province of Nghe An

A 15-year-old boy in the north-central province of Nghe An is attracting a lot of attention and admiration for his efforts that saved five girls from drowning.

Le Van Duoc, a ninth-grader at Thanh Ngoc Junior High School, has been praised by Minister of Education and Training Pham Vu Luan, as well as local authorities, for his "courage."

On June 17 Duoc was herding buffalos along the Rao Gang River in Thanh Ngoc Commune when he heard people crying for help, Le Dinh Tho, vice chief of Dinh Chuong District's Youth Union, told Thanh Nien.

The boy rushed toward the cries and found five girls, aged between 10 and 13, drowning. The girls had been catching snails, Tho said. 

Duoc jumped to the river and pulled two of the victims to the bank, and then came back to rescue the others. He even administered first aid before looking for adults to rush the girls to hospital.

According to Tho, Duoc's father taught him how to swim, as well as rescue and give first aid to drowning victims.

In an interview with online newspaper VnExpress, Duoc said upon seeing the girls drowning, he cried for help, but when no one responded, he knew he would have to save them on his own.

"I had no time to think whether I would survive it," he said.

He said after pulling all the girls to the river's bank, two of them lost consciousness, but they recovered after he administered first aid.

Duoc also told the online newspaper that the river is some 30 meters wide, and at this time of the year, sand often accumulates under it, making it possible to wade across.

But, there are places where the water is deep, he said.

In an explanation for his son's knowledge of the river, Duoc's father Le Van Hai said he started teaching his son to swim in the river when he was nine.

In April, Nguyen Van Nam, an 18-year-old schoolboy drowned after successfully rescuing five boys aged 12-15, also in Nghe An.

Nam was swept away after becoming drained of energy saving the boys.

He was declared a hero by many people, including President Truong Tan Sang. His act of bravery was also mentioned in the national high school graduation exams that took place earlier this month.

One of the questions of the literature exam asked students to express their thoughts in writing about Nam's courage, and in its guidelines for grading papers, the Ministry of Education said if students expressed "wrong and negative thoughts," their papers would go ungraded.

The guideline reportedly confused teachers in charge of grading literature papers.

Many said they could not comprehend what the ministry meant by "wrong and negative thoughts," and that it was unreasonable to refuse to grade a paper, because its writer refused to make the same sacrifice as Nam.

Some students and teachers said the question did not sound right, because it encouraged youngsters to aspire to Nam's fate of dying while saving others, which would deeply hurt their parents.

In fact, some people have argued that Nam could have survived had he acted more "calmly" and sought help from others upon discovering the victims.

On the other hand, many praised the question, saying young people should consider what Nam did as a good example and follow it.

According to the Ministry of Labor, War Invalids and Social Affairs, the number of child drowning deaths in Vietnam is 10 times higher than in other developing countries.

The largest number of cases occur in Hanoi, the north-central provinces of Nghe An and Thanh Hoa, and the Mekong Delta provinces of Tien Giang, Dong Thap, An Giang, and Long An.

The country has 3,260 kilometers of coast and innumerable rivers and canals, but the government has failed to enable schools to include swimming as part of the standard curriculum.

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