A merry send-off for Chevening schol­ars

The Myanmar Times - - The Metro - T.chau@mm­times.com THOMPSON CHAU

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

Ros­alinn Za­hau

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