KEEPING THE FLAME OF EDUCATION ALIVE s
Recent graduates from the Mai Ja Yang Intensive English School (IEP) in Kachin State
THE FUTURE OF PROSPECT BURMA 2014 marks the 25th Anniversary of Prospect Burma. As many look to the changes in Burma, it remains as important as ever that we work to build open and unrestricted access to high quality education for the young people that we hope will determine their country’s future. Although Burma is changing, both old and new challenges remain, as you will read about in our Burma Watch on page 5.
INSIDE 2 Chairman’s Editorial 3 Alumna Interview 4 Student Interview 5 Burma Watch 6 News Roundup 7 Director’s Editorial 8 How to Help
The Burmese education system has been under an ongoing strategic review and the most recent findings demonstrate how much the Prospect Burma Scholarships are still needed. According to a recent UNICEF report on public sector spending in Burma, government spending on education only represents 1.5% of GDP, the lowest in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) region. Furthermore, of the Ministry of Education’s allocated 2012-13 budget, only 10% of an already small amount was spent on higher education, whilst 86% was spent on basic education and the remaining 4% mainly represented allocation to education planning and training.1 Efforts are underway to restore educational institutions but these projects are very much in their preliminary stages 1 “Snapshot of Social Sector Public Budget Allocations and Spending in Myanmar”. UNICEF. 2013. http://www.unicef.org/myanmar/ Final_Budget_Allocations_and_Spending_in_ Myanmar.pdf
and it will take years for Burma to raise the education standards of its universities. On a more positive note, with recent political changes in Burma, graduates of scholarship programs have more opportunities than ever to affect change in the economic, social and political development of their country. For this reason, opportunities for external higher education are needed now, more than ever, to drive development in Burma. In this issue, you will meet several of our alumni and students that we see as the faces of the future. Yin Tun (interview on page 3) has found a way to embrace new technology to bring international education into Burma, a much cherished dream at Prospect Burma. Dr Khyne U Mar has built an international reputation for her elephant conservation work (mentioned on page 6). One of our current students has similar hopes to promote conservation with their Tropical Forestry studies (interviewed on page 4). Lastly, Nehginpao Kipgen is facing the questions about Burma’s democratic future in his new book (mentioned on page 6). Twenty-five years on, we are proud of what Prospect Burma alumni and scholars are achieving. In the face of the challenges ahead, we need to do more so that their future and that of the next generation will be brighter still. We must continue to keep the flame of education alive.
Keeping the flame of education alive
CHAIRMAN’S EDITORIAL Prospect Burma’s Chairman, Robert Gordon, gives his views © Homer Sykes
Patron The Viscount Slim OBE DL Vice-Patron Martin Morland CMG Chairman Robert Gordon CMG OBE Vice-Chair Patricia Herbert Trustees Anna Allott OBE David Colvin CMG Dr Thein Lwin Daw Kyi Kyi May Guy Slater Sir Robin Christopher KBE CMG Lindy Ambrose Caroline Courtauld MBE Dr Michael Marett-Crosby Executive Director Maggie Hodges Programme Advisor Steph O’Connell Communications & Fundraising Officer Wendy Blake-James Prospect Burma Porters’ Lodge Rivermead Court Ranelagh Gardens London SW6 3SF Registered Charity No: 802615 Tel: 020 7371 0887 Fax: 020 7371 0547 email@example.com Editor Wendy Blake-James
With Burma beginning to access international development assistance again, the full scale of the challenge ahead is becoming clearer. For Prospect Burma, our key focus is tertiary/university level education. Decades of gross underfunding, the relocation of university campuses out of inner-city sites to distant suburbs, as well as the long periods when universities were simply closed down altogether, have all left scars that will take many years to heal.
Recent eyewitness reports tell of crumbling buildings, erratic electricity supplies, threadbare libraries, and internet connectivity that can only be described as pitiful. While academic and library staff are often dedicated and enthusiastic, the resources at their disposal are utterly inadequate for them to deliver a decent higher education. Saddest of all, campuses have little of the excited buzz and chatter that one associates with student life. While a number of international academic partnerships are now in gestation, they have yet to make any measurable impact on the ground. In short, it will be a long time before Burma’s new generation can access the sort of university education they deserve. All this reinforces our belief that Prospect Burma’s scholarship programme will be necessary for many years to come. Burma’s need for well-trained graduates has never been more urgent. Returning scholars from our programme constitute a potentially valuable resource. So it is important that we keep in close touch with our former scholars and we are trialling new ways of interacting with them through social media and other communication tools. A recent survey of alumni from our 2008 cohort has offered some encouraging pointers to the areas in which our returning scholars are starting to make a difference. Some 40% of those surveyed had returned to Burma, and we expect this proportion to increase for later year groups. Many of those not yet back in their homeland are active on Burma-related issues. For the 2008 cohort, the main areas of study were education, social sciences and communications/IT, with smaller contingents from health, law, agriculture and engineering. Those now back in Burma are now working predominantly in local and international Non-Governmental Organisations, contributing to the expansion of Burma’s civil society; nearly a quarter have jobs in the private sector. Some 200 returned scholars from Prospect Burma and other programmes have joined the new Myanmar Scholarship Alumni Association which is already making an impact in areas such as capacity-building for parliamentarians and knowledge exchange for university faculty members. Those of you who have supported Prospect Burma will be encouraged to learn how the beneficiaries of your generosity are now starting to put their skills to good use. We hope that many more will soon be following in their footsteps. 2
ALUMNA INTERVIEW: YIN TUN, DIGITAL LIBRARY RESEARCH OFFICER Yin Tun is a 2006 Prospect Burma alumna who has found a new and innovative way to help her fellow students, through the creation of a digital library for Burmese Universities. We c a u g h t u p w i t h h e r d u r i n g a presentation about the project in the UK.
PB: How did you become involved in the clinical guidelines to medical institutions and digital library project? community hospitals in the near future, if funding is secured. YT: Soon after I arrived in the UK in 2002, I dreamed of providing teaching and learning PB: What effect do you anticipate this project materials such as textbooks and research will have? papers to students and academic communities in Myanmar. Since then I have been working YT: My belief is that education is the most towards making my vision a reality. fundamental element for the country’s future development. The resources from the digital PB: What will the digital library offer students? library project will be beneficial for users from individual self-learners and researchers, up to YT: The digital library project will enable students community teachers and university lecturers. to access up-to-date learning materials: from Environment and Earth Sciences to South East For some users, this will be the first time they Asia and related country studies. It will also will be able to access up-to-date world class offer materials in supporting subjects such as learning materials for their studies. Computer Science, Mathematics and English Language. PB: Do you see technology as an important support for the future of education in Students who access the digital library project’s Myanmar (Burma)? offline version will also be able to access over 2,000 Massachusetts Institute of Technology YT: Definitely, technology will play a major part (MIT) materials, which were updated to include in the future of educational improvement in the latest resources in May 2013. Myanmar. With the cutting-edge technology, which we have developed for the digital library Yaung Zin’s teacher training materials will offer project, students and academics are now able competency-based training for primary school to access teaching and learning materials, even teachers working in monastic and community with limited or no internet access. schools, providing a basic grounding in what teachers need to know and how to structure the PB: How has your experience as a Prospect lessons. Burma scholar affected your outlook on the future? In addition, we are also hoping to deliver over 600,000 open access medical resources and Without a doubt, my career (continued on p.4) 3
Interview continued: and life would be totally different if I had not come to the UK to do my Master’s Degree. Being a Prospect Burma scholar has gradually shaped my life and way of thinking since I arrived in the UK.
In future I would like to share the opportunity of accessing up to date world class educational materials, which were so beneficial to me in my studies, with students and academics in Myanmar.
I know that I have been privileged to have the opportunity to study at a UK University and have access to their 24 hour online e-resources and open access self serve system to borrow books.
I will continue to work towards helping Myanmar students bridge the knowledge gap and improve their potential educational prospects, thereby also improving the prospects of Myanmar.
STUDENT INTERVIEW: SAW HTOO SH: My education in Forestry that I am getting from university will be shared with the people of Burma. It is important knowledge to share because most people in Burma depend on PB: How has your experience as a Prospect forest resources. Burma scholar affected your outlook on the future? The core knowledge I will try to contribute will be about sustainable forest management through SH: The capacity and experience that I have participatory management. It is important to received from my education through Prospect build community-based forestry to manage in a Burma has had a strong effect on my future. sustainable way. We recently interviewed Saw Htoo, a current Prospect Burma scholar studying for an MA in Tropical Forestry in Thailand.
The experiences I have gained have enabled me to share my knowledge with fellow citizens as well as working together with them to change the future of Burma in a considered way, mostly with a grassroots approach and development of a livilihood in a sustainable way.
Moreover, I also hope to work with the leaders from the Forest Department to make a better policy that will improve forest management at all levels. No one person is expert about all aspects of forest management so everybody should have an opportunity to contribute their ideas for better management in order to bring forest stewardship to all levels.
PB: How do you plan to use your education and skills?
“KNOWLEDGE IS A TREASURE NO ONE CAN STEAL”
As 2014 begins, concerns are growing about the shape of political and economic reform in the country. There can be no doubt that modernization and hopes for national change have accelerated under the quasi-civilian government of President Thein Sein. The international community is encouraging this transformation from military rule. Burma will take on the ASEAN chair for 2014, and ex-UK prime minister Tony Blair, ex-US president Bill Clinton and EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton are just the latest Western leaders to visit the country. Reforms, however, are still in their infancy, and many communities are yet to see real progress in their lives. Land-grabbing by business and military interests is commonplace, and, despite the spread of ethnic ceasefires, the number of persons internally displaced by violence has increased under the Thein Sein government to an estimated 650,000. In particular, the humanitarian crisis has been worsened by ongoing conflict in the Kachin region as well as communal and antiMuslim violence in the Rakhine state. There are leaders on the different sides who believe that all these problems can be solved by inclusive dialogue and a spirit of reconciliation. But as the countdown to the 2015 general election gets underway, there are worries that key issues will not be resolved in the meantime. Firstly, the new political system continues to be dominated by the armed forces (Tatmadaw). In response, Aung San Suu Kyi and the National League for Democracy have warned that concerned people will not stand in the election if the undemocratic constitution is not first amended. Secondly, although over a dozen ethnic forces have ceasefires with the government, this has not yet translated into a political agreement and nationwide peace. Criticism has grown against Tatmadaw officers in the ethnic borderlands who have continued military operations outside government control. And thirdly, as international investment increases, many citizens fear that they will not benefit from major projects in their areas. Over the past year, there have been frequent protests against new initiatives, including the Letpadaung copper-mine, Dawei Development Project, and the oil and gas pipelines to China. In summary, national transition is at a delicate stage. In the coming months, it is hoped that compromise will be achieved to ensure reform momentum towards democracy will include all the countryâ€™s peoples. But there is still a very long way to go. Burma is still in an uncertain time of change â€“ not at a conclusion. 5
NEWS ROUNDUP THANK YOU TO OUR GLOBAL GIVING DONORS! We have met the Global Giving Challenge and have raised over £4000 through online donations for the Mai Ja Yang Intensive English School (IEP) in Kachin State. This is enough funding to continue Prospect Burma’s support for another year! We have to thank our wonderful donors from all over the world for their generous support for this very special project! We will soon have a project appeal for our core scholarship funding so please stay tuned! CONGRATULATIONS to our Prospect Burma alumnus Nehginpao Kipgen on his upcoming book titled Democracy Movement in Myanmar: Challenges and Problems. It will be published in April 2014, with a foreword by Priscilla Clapp, former United States Chargé d’Affaires in Burma from 1999 to 2002. The book will be available from the publisher’s website: www. copalpublishing.com/Book.aspx?bid=16, as well as from www.amazon.com.
PLEASE JOIN US on our new social media channels! www.facebook.com/prospectburma
www.twitter.com/prospectburma Prospect Burma is pleased to announce the launch of the Oxford-Lady GoreBooth Memorial Graduate Scholarship for Burmese Scholars. Successful applicants will receive full funding to attend full-time Master’s studies at St Hugh’s College, Oxford University. The eligible courses include: MSc Global Governance & Diplomacy, MSc Education, MSc International Human Rights Law and MSc Learning and Teaching. We hope to announce the first recipient of this scholarship in our summer newsletter. THANK YOU to all of the supporters who made this scholarship possible!
CONGRATULATIONS to Prospect Burma Alumna Dr Khyne U Mar who was recently featured in the BBC programme “Wild Burma” and the documentary “Of Oozies and Elephants” which was recently shown at the Bath Film Festival. Her profile on the BBC website is here: www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p01hsbr2/profiles/ khyne-u-mar and you can find out more about her elephant research here: www.rufford.org/rsg/projects/ khyne_mar
A GIVING LIFESTYLE! Did you know that your daily online habits can also help Prospect Burma? We are now signed up to two online shopping giving sites: www. easyfundraising.org.uk as well as www.everyclick. com. If you sign up for one of these and add it to your browser toolbar, you will be automatically be raising donations for Prospect Burma every time you shop online! We are also now a part of www.recycle4charity. co.uk. By signing up to receive freepost bags, registering us as your chosen charity and recycling your printer cartridges, you will not only be greening your life but helping us at the same time. Why not try making giving a part of your lifestye today!
DIRECTOR’S EDITORIAL A message from Prospect Burma’s Director, Maggie Hodges
My first six months with Prospect Burma has been a whirlwind of activity as well as a eye-opener. I had not realised the amount of individual donors that contribute to the scholarship funding on a monthly basis - thank you! A total of 109 scholarships were awarded for the 2013/14 academic year, 4 less than the previous year, mainly due to rising study costs. However, the quality of the student applications was high, and the numbers for those applying from inside Burma continues to rise. It is also gratifying to see that the numbers of students returning to work in Burma is also increasing, 19 of the 26 students who graduated this year have already returned and are active in their chosen field. I had the pleasure of meeting many of our current cohort of students at the annual student conference held in Thailand in November, an engaging and dedicated group of young men and women who are determined to ‘make a difference’ after graduation. Whilst overseas scholarships continues to be the core activity of Prospect Burma, this coming year will see training provision inside Burma itself. An award has been made to Prospect Burma to provide training courses to those who have recently been released from prison. Some courses will be vocational, enabling beneficiaries to up-skill in order to secure employment. Other courses will be provided in English language, computer skills and capacity building in order to bridge the gap of an interrupted education. BREAKDOWN OF 2013 SCHOLARSHIP AWARDS COUNTRY
Number of Grantees
Combined cost of Grants (GBP £)
Average cost of Grants (GBP £)
Notes: 2012 figures are shown in brackets.
HELP US CELEBRATE 25 YEARS OF PROSPECT BURMA! STUDENTS AND ALUMNI: Do you have stories, news or photos you would be willing to share with us? Please get in touch!
SUPPORTERS: Do you have ideas for fundraisers, possible raffle prizes, or time to volunteer? We would love to hear from you!
Please contact our Communications & Fundraising Officer: Wendy Blake-James firstname.lastname@example.org 7
HOW TO HELP Founded in 1989, Prospect Burma invests in a positive future for Burma through its young people. We give underprivileged Burmese students, from all ethnic and religious backgrounds, access to higher education through our scholarship programme. Our main objective is to build a core group of skilled Burmese people who have studied subjects vital to the rebuilding of civil society in Burma. It is a condition of the grant that students commit to return home to participate in development and nation building. DONATION SCHEMES PARTNERS: £25 per month Prospect Burma is in great need of more Partner donors. Our long-standing individual Partners of Prospect Burma provide us with essential core funding for our work and the continuance of our scholarships in the years ahead. Just £25 a month gives us the secure support so vital to our work. ADOPT A SCHOLARSHIP: £800 The Adopt a Scholarship Scheme costs £800 per part-scholarship per year and lets benefactors support scholarships in specific areas of study. The average cost of a scholarship is £3,500 per year, and benefactors can choose to contribute to a part-scholarship at £800 or full scholarship at £3,500 per annum. INSTITUTIONAL PARTNERS: £2000 per annum If you are an organisation or business company wishing to support us, we also have an Institutional Partners’ Scheme costing £2,000 per year. By becoming an institutional partner with Prospect Burma your organisation will be improving lives and developing communities within Burma. HOW CAN YOU DONATE? BY POST: Please send your donations, payable to Prospect Burma, to the address on page 2. If you are a UK taxpayer, signing a Gift Aid form (available on our website) with your donation increases the value of your gift by 20% at no extra cost to you. Our IBAN number is GB07RBOS 16172510019933 and our SWIFT code is RBOSGB2L. ONLINE: Online donations may be made through this website: www.justgiving.com or direct to us through the “Donate” button on our Facebook page: www.facebook.com/prospectburma GIVING FROM AMERICA BY CHEQUE: Please make cheques payable to “American Friends of Prospect Burma”, which has US501c(3) status, and send to: Zali Win, Treasurer, P O Box 257, Accord, New York 12404 THROUGH AMERICAN FUND FOR CHARITIES: Prospect Burma is supported by the American Fund for Charities, a US501c(3) non-profit organisation EIN 52-2109597. Donations to the American Fund for Charities from US taxpayers are tax deductable to the extent allowed by US law. Prosepct Burma is registered as AFC Charity No. AFC133. For further information please visit: www.americanfund.info