Prospect Burma began life in 1989, following the pro-democracy uprising of the previous year. When we first started out, our work focussed on supporting refugees who had been forced to flee the country. We began raising funds for books and classes in refugee schools, and we awarded one annual scholarship to an exiled Burmese student to attend university. Since then we have grown exponentially, focussing on the provision of higher-education to Burmese students. To date we have awarded over 1,300 scholarships to Burmese students studying around the world.
In 1988 the Burmese military regime suppressed mass student-led pro-democracy demonstrations. Aung San Suu Kyi became the focus of Burmese people’s hopes, speaking out for human rights and multi-party elections, but demonstrations were violently quashed with large numbers of people killed. Martial law was imposed, universities and schools were closed down and thousands of young Burmese people fled to the country’s borders. In response, supporters around the world began to raise money to send basic provisions, and Prospect Burma was born.
Today the work we do is more important than ever, as new democratic developments since 2011 are increasing the need for infrastructure and vital skills in Burma. Education is the key to a sustainable future for the country, and is at the heart of what we do. Each year our scholarship programme enables more Burmese students to gain vital skills in higher education, to help build a brighter future for the country. Our scholarships prioritise key developmental subjects, which include public health, education, the environment, human rights and public administration. Our students come from a broad range of social, economic and ethnic backgrounds. In many cases, when our students return to the country their skills are unique within Burma, as they have gained expertise in areas which are continually developing, while the education system within Burma remains static, under-resourced and below global standards.
In 2015 we awarded 93 scholarships to students studying undergraduate, masters and PhD degrees in a huge variety of subjects, at Universities around the World. We have watched our alumni go on to achieve incredible things, with a very high percentage taking their skills back to their country.
Burma transformed through the expertise of its people
To support the transformation of Burma through the education of its people. Prospect Burma awards higher education scholarships to passionate and visionary Burmese people, to provide this generation with the skills and expertise to shape the country they want to live in. Prospect Burma is inspired and endorsed by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, and shares her belief in the ability of education to create a peaceful, democratic, inclusive and just society.
We are INCLUSIVE – We award scholarships to students regardless of ethnicity, gender or religion
We are ACCOUNTABLE – We take pride in delivering our service with integrity to our supporters and our students
We are EXPERTS – We have been dedicated to our cause since the student uprising of 1988 and understand Burma. We invest in the best education to ensure our students receive the skills and expertise the country needs.
Our Advocate: Aung San Suu Kyi
“For many years during the days when it seemed that democracy was just a faint hope on the horizon, our hopes were kept alive by friends from abroad who made us understand that we had not been forgotten. This was what kept us all going, and now that we are in a position to take a more active part in building up the future of our own country, we want to equip our people in such a way that they will be able to make the best decisions.
To me, that seems the most important part of education: to help people to make the best decisions. If our young people are taught to make the best possible decisions then we can say that education has succeeded in Burma.
Burma has been left behind because our education system was weak, because our political system was undemocratic and because our people were never given the chance to realise their potential.
The past is the past and it cannot be changed. But the future is in our hands to shape as we wish it to be. And I would like our young people to have the right equipment, the right intellectual, mental and spiritual equipment to shape the country that they want to live in.”
The main focus of our work is the provision of scholarships to eligible Burmese students, regardless of religious or ethnic background. In the short term, each of our students’ lives are dramatically transformed by the qualifications they gain with our support, which enables them to find meaningful work and gain valuable qualifications and skills. In the long term, we are helping to build a vital task force for Burma’s future. Since 2011 Burma has started a long overdue process of reform, and the need for highly-educated and skilled people is more pressing than ever. All of our students are committed to returning home when possible and to using their new expertise and qualifications to rebuild civil society in Burma.
In 2015/16 we provided £342,085 of scholarships to 93 students. Of the 23 students who graduated in 2012, eleven have already returned to Burma, with eight of them working in the fields of education, health and journalism. Nine of them are doing Burma related work elsewhere and one has gone on to study for a PhD.
We provide support to help prepare students for study abroad, and to help them transition into employment. With the opening of our new in-country office this year, we will be able to provide even more support on the ground.
The Kachin Intensive English School (IEP), in the remote Mai Ja Yang village on the Chinese border in Kachin State, provides residential English language classes, computer studies and teacher training to approximately 90 students each year. The majority of students come from poor farming families and others from orphaned or one-parent backgrounds. Due to the ongoing conflict in Kachin State, many of these students would otherwise not have access to further education. Prospect Burma funding pays for lecturers at the school.
Prospect Burma provides a small number of scholarships each year to enable Burmese students to attend English courses in a number of locations across the country, and undertake their International English Language Test System (IELTS) exam. Achieving an IELTS score of 5.5 or higher enables these young people to apply to universities abroad or improve their job prospects at home.
Martin is a leading authority on Burmese politics. He has researched for two decades, reported extensively and made several TV documentaries on Burma.
Former Chairman of Prospect Burma, British Ambassador to Burma 1986-1990 and to the UN in Geneva 1990-93. Leader of the official delegation to the World Conference on Human Rights in Vienna, 1993.
British Ambassador to Burma 1995-1999. Head of South East Asia Department, FCO 1999-2003. Ambassador to Vietnam 2003-2007. Retired from FCO 2008. President Britain-Burma Society.
Former Curator of the South East Asia Collections of the British Library. Author whose publications include Burma (Clio Press 1991), The Life of the Buddha (BL Publications, 1993) and articles on Burmese manuscript art, education and history. Lived in Burma while learning Burmese and conducting historical research and has made several return visits to the country. Fellow of the Royal Asiatic Society and Council Member, Britain-Burma Society.
A Cambridge law graduate and former solicitor, Lindy became involved with Prospect Burma through her husband, Tom Reid, who was born in Rangoon when his parents were in the Foreign Office.
Retired from HM Diplomatic Service, Sir Robin served as Ambassador successively to Ethiopia, Indonesia and Argentina. He has known Daw Aung San Suu Kyi since 1966 when they were both students at Oxford University.
A writer specialising in Burma and China, a published photographer, documentary film producer and researcher. Her publications have focused on Asian travel, history and culture including books on Burma.
Dominic works as an investment manager in London and maintains a keen interest in Burma having visited in 2009 to retrace his grandfather’s footsteps. He has published various articles on how investment can support economic and political reform in Burma.
Josh Htet is a Prospect Burma alumnus. PB supported him in his legal education at BPP Law School in London and then at New College, Oxford University. He now works as a solicitor at a magic circle law firm in London and divides his time between London and Yangon as work dictates. He also writes and sings Burmese folk music in his spare time and has recently released an EP in aid of Prospect Burma available here.
Michael is also Trustee of the Daw Aung San Suu Kyi Trust and visits Burma frequently to advance its health and education projects.
Information Assistant with the USIS in Burma for several years before joining the BBC in London as a producer in 1983. She rose to be head of the Burmese section there in 1997 the first Asian woman to reach that level. From 1999 to 2001 she worked as a Field Reporter for the BBC in their Bangkok office. Since retirement she has been able to spend more time in Burma.
Former reporter for an English language newspaper in Rangoon. Freelance writer, producer and director who also teaches TV/Film Drama – acting, directing, producing and writing – both in the UK and abroad.