The boy who is a dab hand, with his feet

While most children take school for granted, stepping into the classroom for the first time eight years ago was the best day of Nguyen Tan Sang’s life.

The boy who is a dab hand, with his feet

Nguyen Tan Sang learns to write letters with his own toes at Duc Phu Commune's Secondary School in Mo Duc District in central Quang Ngai Province. — Photo tuoitre.vn

Born with twisted and crooked arms, Sang never thought he would see the day he could dress in a school uniform and learn with all his friends.

And it wasn’t just his education that was affected. Sang’s disability prevents him from taking part in many everyday activities.

But thanks to support and encouragement from his mother, Sang was able to make his dream come true, even though his late start in life meant he was 10 years older than many of his classmates.

“This was the happiest day of my life,” said Sang, who at 22-years-old is still in the 8th grade, sharing studies with 14-year-olds.

“It’s the day that I won my own personally fight with life and realised that I can live like any other person,” he told Tuổi Trẻ (Youth) newspaper.

Magical toes

When he was born, his mother, Nguyen Thi Be, tried her best to teach her son to use his hands to lift and hold things, but she was fighting a losing batter.

However despite growing increasingly frustrated with the life he had been dealt, Sang realised one important thing – his hands didn’t work, but there was nothing wrong with his feet.
Slowly he began to practice with basic tasks like lifting a stick or a small stone using his toes.

Eventually that practice paid off, and before too long he became a dab hand… with his feet!

“It's a blessing for me to know what my feet can do many things," Sang said.

Getting better control with his toes, Sang told his mother that he wanted to go to school.

Be tried time and time again, but always faced difficulties to enrol her son in class. Time passed and Sang thought his dream was slipping away, but his mother stuck at her task.

 

Eventually, several years after first trying, Sang got the news he had been waiting to hear all his life… it was time for school!

So at the age of 15, Sang began his first lessons, using his foot to take notes.

Le Thi Tien, first grade teacher, recalled the time Sang tried to hold pen and wrote, the gap between the toes bleeding and aching.

“His toes were swollen and painful, but he insisted on keeping going,” she said.

Sang said his first grade teacher, Tien, and his vice principal, Thuy, hold a special place in his heart.

Thuy opened the school gate to welcome him on his very first day and Tien helped him learn.

“I’m grateful to have my mom and the two teachers,” he said. “Without them, I could well be illiterate.”

Sang now is an eighth grader at Duc Phu Commune’s Secondary School. His feet are no longer swollen when writing letters. Sang can write fluently and do calculations without any difficulties.

In his diary, Sang introduced himself as the 22-year-old boy who was learning in the eighth grade and was writing with his own toes.

He wrote: “My dream is to become an IT worker because my feet can use computers. I think nothing is impossible and I will prepare for my future in the same way that I prepared for writing words eight years ago.”

“I think I can fix my life with my feet." — VNS

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