On Thursday, August 12th, the world celebrates International Youth Day. Founded by the United Nations, this day seeks to shed light on various issues that young people face around the world. It is also a celebration of youthful innovation, insisting that young people have a role to play as partners in making a better global society.
A significant aspect of International Youth Day is the continual drive for children’s rights to education. This theme has particular resonance with us and our social responsibility goals, so we are delighted to announce the Discova Scholarship project.
This marks another step in our ongoing support and longstanding friendship with the communities of Mai Chau, northern Vietnam.
The rural villages of Bao La district within Mai Chau province are home to almost 2,000 youngsters, meaning nearly three-quarters of the local population are under 18. As these children grow up into young adults, they are forced to make tough decisions. Unfortunately, in their decision-making, education often slides down the list of priorities.
The average annual income for households in Mai Chau ranges from 450 to 750 USD. This is much lower than the national average for Vietnam. Unfortunately, worldwide, we see that children from low-income families are educationally disadvantaged, whether through readiness for schooling, access to materials and facilities, or through insecurities related to their economic situation.
The state of affairs has been worsened with the pandemic. The absence of travellers has meant a loss of income for the villagers. This has made circumstances all the more challenging for children here.
Ultimately, some of the villages’ most gifted young students are obliged to abandon their education, either unable to afford the costs of materials or needing to contribute financially to the household in other ways. This is unfulfilled potential.
All of our decisions related to the community come about from a process of cooperation and communication. In village meetings, the community pinpointed this educational issue as something they would like help with – they want to instil in their youth the mindset that education is worthwhile. And so, in conjunction with the teachers of the local school, we set about finding some kind of solution.
The Discova Scholarship Programme is the outcome of these discussions. The Discova Scholarship programme guarantees two years of educational financial support to five of the community’s brightest pupils from its most disadvantaged families.
This financial support constitutes costs for additional out-of-school tutoring, funds for materials and textbooks, and cover for school uniforms. The idea is that those most in need will benefit from some slight relief from these associated schooling costs, and will hopefully prosper as a result.
This is the first scholarship programme we have undertaken. We have worked closely with the community and teachers to evaluate the students based on fair criteria. The students will be chosen based on several factors, including student conduct, household income, teacher reports, and perceived potential. The programme will also be subject to ongoing evaluation over the coming years.
This commitment constitutes the beginning of what will hopefully be a much broader project going forward.
When the educational team spoke with the children, they were struck by the ambitions and dreams of the children, with plenty proudly saying that they wanted to be teachers. This shows the value they place on education, generally, and demonstrates a desire to learn.
However, our team were also saddened to hear how uncertain many were of their futures – they didn’t think their ambitions were realistic.
With this first initiation of our scholarship programme, we hope to improve the circumstances of these students. But we want to do more.
Discova is proudly committing to two years of funding, but over the coming months we will be offering sponsorship opportunities to our partners, giving you the chance to make a real difference to young lives. Together, we have the potential to fund these gifted children all the way through to university – an educational goal that is well out of reach for the community.
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