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HOA HAO UNIVERSITY


The Hoa Hao University, located in the populous nature-rich Mekong Delta in Long-Xuyen City, An-Giang Province, South Vietnam was established in 1970 by a staunch anti-communist Buddhist sect - the Hoa-Hao, a renewed form of Buddhist worship that shun all forms of pageantry, ornate vesments, elaborate rituals ostentatious statuary and pagodas . The Hoa-Hao are truly the "Protestants" of Buddhist Religion .

Although well-educated in the simple honorable tradition manner, the Hoa-Hao Elders recognized that with the encroachment of Free World technology into Southeast Asia, that the Hoa-Hao Youth of the present and future must receive a more intensive and liberal education geared to the modern world in order to cope with the multitudinous demands of modern development and its complexities with maximum efficiency so as to derive greater benefits from the area resources . To the elders, it was obvious that the sons and daughters of the traditional farmers and fishermen require a better education than they themselves had had in order to meet the changing times .

The founding of a university in the Western World might be considered routine compared the founding of one in South Vietnam's Mekong Delta . It required a monumental effort on the part of a few who had been fortunate to have attended a university or a college . Still despite numerous shortcomings a courageous relatively small group including the dynamic and energetic Senator Le-Phuoc-Sang, a Hoa-Hao, now the Chancellor of Hoa-Hao University, opened its doors in 1970 to receive the first Mekong Delta students for a higher education .

The first objective had been achievved - that of opening a university virtually at the doorsteps of every young Mekong Delta high school graduate regardless of religious affiliation at t nominal fee . Without the newly-founded Hoa-Hao University, higher education would otherwise be a sadly unfulfilled dream of thousands .

For the cost of 32 dollars per year (May 20, 73 exchange rate) college education is being provided to every son and daughter of the Delta farmers who qualify for admisssion . The newly opened university is lacking in everything, but it is rich in one respect : it is not lacking in students . Neither are the students lacking in industriousness or in capacity for absorption of modern knowledge .

Arisen from the mud of the delta's verdant rice fields, the university reminds us of the early "Land Grand" Colleges of America . Perhaps, the Vietnamese institution is more destitute because of the long war and also because of the general lack of modern education among the rural population - in general and of the Hoa Hao people in particular .

Reading thus far, one undoubtedly has deduced that Hoa-Hao University is parochial school . So it is . It can be compared in operating principles to Fordham University in New York City and Southern Methodist University in Texas . Any individual seeking admissions, regardless of religious preference, is accepted provided space is available . Hoa Hao applicants do not receive preferential treatment .

The Hoa-Hao, Hoa-Hao is literally defined as Peace and Concord, Hoa-Hao adopts, are physically rugged, sturdily built, tough-minded groups who for two decades have been anathema to communist overtures and aggression . During the 1968 Tet Offensive, there were no incidents in Long Xuyen City . The Hoa Hao are mortal enemies of the communitst .

The reference as underdeveloped peasant is quite misleading . It is really an allusion to little western style academic attainment . The Hoa-Hao are a gracious, soft-spoken, tradition-cultured people with a profound sense of filial piety, a sense of duty to family and country imbued with indomitable courage .

The home of the Hoa-Hao, the Mekong Delta, rivals if not surpasses, the better known Nile Delta in Egypt and the famous Mississippi in the USA in natural resources . Since it is the principal high yield, low-cost rice-producing area in Southeast Asia, it is coveted by the communist .

Today despite of the communist activity, a surplus is produced for export to other areas of RVN . Under full cultivation, as under the French, hundreds of thousands of tons of rice were exported annually . Sixty percent of the cultivated land in South Vietnam is located in the Mekong Delta .

While rice is the principal product of the Delta, great income is derived from farm livestock such as hogs, cattle, poultry and also from crops of fruits and vegetables . The deep, wide, gentle-flowing, silt-laden Mekong River with its hundreds of tributaries is a fisherman's paradise . There is a great variety of fish in abundance and a bountiful supply of fresh water shrimp . The cultivation of fresh water shrimp is a small but fast growing industry . Last year six million U.S. dollars were realized from frozen shrimp shipments to Hong Kong and Japan . It's just the beginning .

The fruits such as bananas, huge juicy pineapples, the citrus fruits and big luscious golden mangoes, can be made available to foreign markets with proper handling, packaging, storage and transportation . The same applies to vegetables .

Tranportation of products to processing plants can easily be accomplished very cheaply by utilizing the countless Mekong tributaries and canals that crisscross the Delta employing small powered boats, barges and rafts .

Naturally, to fully exploit the farm and river products, food processing plants such as canneries, packing sheds, dehydration plants, quick-freezing plants, vacuum-chill plants, temperature-controlled warehouses and refrigerated cold storage plants are required . Of course, appropriate dockage must be provided to facilitate accessibility to the shipping facilities ; these can be evidently constructed with relative ease . Cheap hydro-electric power can be made available to operated the processing and cold storage plants by harnessing tributaries throughout the Delta without interfering with navigation .

Thus, it can easily be understood why the Hoa-Hao Elders decided that if progress were to be made by their 3,000,000 and other as well, whereby the entire Mekong Community of South Vietnam would prosper, elevate the standard of living and enjoy a more fruitful life, it is necessary to acquire knowledge, skills and techniques from the West to fully develop the resources of the Mekong Delta . Hence the reason for the founding of the Hoa-Hao University .

As a start in preparation for the development and export of the economic resources of the Delta, the University has opened colleges of Commerce and Banking, and Management Science .

The University also has a Language Training Center, and is currently searching for a fulltime English Professor .

A harrassing problem is the critical lack of fulltime in-residence Hoa-Hao professors . There just aren't enough as yet . This has resulted in currently receiving assistance on a part time basis from deans and professors engaged by other colleges and universities . While remedial, this arrangement is not satisfactory . Assistance from abroad would be appreciated to no end .

Scholarships are being fervently sought to provide outstanding candidates with overseas training and/or academic studies which will help equip the University will full time Hoa-Hao professors committed to the development of the University and the Community . The candidates are sons and daughters of Hoa-Hao families . It is planned that upon completion of their studies abroad, they will serve full time in their appropriate departments within the University .

Although being founded by a religious (Buddhist) denomination, the Hoa-Hao University is increasingly turning lay .

It opens its doors to every young people who qualify for admission, regardless of race, religious or political affilations .

Each year, the University enrolls thousands of sons and daughters of farmers, whose modest parents cannot affort to send them to distant college .

Each year, the local high schools produce thousands of graduates, who would have to discontinue their studies, had the Hoa-Hao University not come into being .


Major General Edward Lansdale
June 1974