A merry send-off for Chevening scholars
THIS year’s batch of Chevening Scholars encompasses a diverse group of young professionals. These scholars are looking to tap into the knowledge and network offered by UK institutions in order to further contribute in their professions, ranging from journalism and entrepreneurialism to civil society and government.
The British Embassy in Yangon recently organised a farewell reception for 15 Myanmar Chevening scholars who were leaving to pursue graduate studies at British universities over the next 12 months.
Chevening scholarships, funded by the UK government, are awarded annually to individuals with demonstrable leadership potential and strong academic backgrounds. The scholarship offers full financial support for future leaders to study any eligible master’s degree at a UK university whilst also gaining access to a wide range of academic, professional and cultural experiences. On completion of their studies, these 15 scholars will be expected to return to Myanmar and use their know-how and capabilities to make a difference to the country’s future.
“The UK is home to some of the world’s best universities, brightest students and most revered academics. I look forward to welcoming them back to Myanmar next year, and seeing how they have grown academically, professionally and personally as a result of their time in the UK,” British ambassador Dan Chugg said.
The Myanmar Times talked to a number of scholars on their choices, backgrounds and aspirations.
One of the scholars, editor at the Voice Weekly Thu Rein Hlaing, from Dawei, is going to read public policy at the University of Bristol.
He explained that Bristol’s public policy degree and the scholarship programme are
important because he wants to acquire analytical skills in the area of public policy. Bristol was a particularly good choice as he wanted “a dose of the countryside”, away from major cities.
Having worked with The Voice Weekly since 2009, he has focused more on business stories than politics. With the master’s and network of international students in Bristol, he hoped to return to Myanmar as a journalist and make informed contribution to debates on regional issues, an area on where he thought the country hasn’t placed enough emphasis. Thu Rein Hlaing is active among civil society organisations in Tanintharyi Region and runs a local paper in Dawei alongside his work.
“Three years ago, I studied in New Zealand for six months through an exchange programme, mainly on English and how a democratic government works. After that, I realised I needed to update my skills, so I decided to do a master’s.”
Thu Rein Hlaing said, with the skills and support from the graduate programme, he hoped to eventually establish a university or college in Dawei based on the capacity building and civic education initiatives he is currently spearheading for his Dawei Watch Foundation.
Shan-born Minn Tent Bo from the Carter Center is going to read international relations and democratic politics at the University of Westminster, London. Having worked in election monitoring prior to his further study, he believed the programme provided the right timing.
“I plan to be a part of the [work related to] General Election in 2020. So by the time my studies have finished in the UK and I have come back here, it’s the right timing for the next Myanmar General Election,” he explained. He planned to be involved in the election community for 2020.
“I will probably meet people and also build a stronger network … internationally, the Chevening Alumni network has reached 50,000,” he said. His advice to those who aspire to become a Chevening Scholar next year? “Believe in yourself.”
Rosalinn Zahau from Chin State is going to read law at Queen Mary University of London. She said the Chevening programme provides “an excellent opportunity” for Myanmar students, and Queen Mary is her choice as its law faculty is among the best in the UK.
Rosalinn, whose hometown is Falam, works for Open Society Foundation, involved in grants, human rights and justice. “By reading law I think I’ll be able to come back and contribute in Myanmar’s efforts to promote the rule of law,” she continued. As the country does not have sufficient legal practitioners and scholars, she hopes to make a positive input in that field.
Other scholars include those who are in politics and government.
Ye Wint Kyaw, from Pakokku township, Magwe Region, will head to Lancaster to pursue a postgraduate degree in politics (political theory).
“I believe that it [the programme] is totally relevant to the Ministry of the Foreign Affairs, and also to the Office of the State Counsellor, because we have a huge gap between the generation of 60s and the 90s,” he, a post-90, said. The country needs “well-educated experts and scholars” to help build the nation and the state. Win Kyaw added that research and data are vital for the government’s policy-making, whether it is Sustainable Development Goals or other areas. This will be among the takeaways from the programme.
Upon completing his studies, Ye Wint Kyaw hopes to return to the State Counsellor’s Office to continue his career.
‘I will probably meet people and also build a stonger network.’ Minn Tent Bo Migrant jade miner
Minn Tent Bo