The safety and welfare of students, alumni, supporters, volunteers and staff is paramount to Prospect Burma. We are working hard to minimise the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic might have on students’ education, in order to help Myanmar build up its skills capacity at this uncertain time.
Prospect Burma manages three programmes:
- Access to Learning – helps people from Myanmar gain the skills they need to continue education
- Learning to Leadership – helps students access tertiary education abroad, including our flagship scholarship programme
- Change in the Community – supports alumni to share resources, knowledge and networks to maximise the positive difference they can make to their communities when they return home
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the Ministry of Education in Myanmar’s request for international support in digitalising education, Prospect Burma is developing an online learning provision. Online education has the advantage that it can be delivered in any remote area where there is internet access. But it can never replicate a group face-to-face experience. Prospect Burma will be actively fundraising going into 2021 to deliver a learning approach that can use both digital and ‘real world’ solutions to the challenges that COVID-19 brings.
Here is how we have adjusted each programme in response to the challenge of COVID-19:
Access to Learning
Two of our projects quickly moved online to maintain education provision despite restrictions on travel and socialising:
- Sittwe Education Resource Centre (SERC) in Rakhine State has been operating fully online while restrictions are in place. As a result, SERC’s outreach has actually increased to a wider geographical area and greater numbers. Around 20,000 Facebook users in townships across Rakhine State viewed SERC posts advertising its Basic English course in 2020. Around 500 people subsequently applied, with 75 students being selected to take the course over two batches.
- Our 2020 Bridging Programme, a seven week course in Yangon, ended a week early due to restrictions. 20 students from diverse backgrounds learned about each other’s cultures and ideas while preparing for International English Language Testing System (IELTS) exams. Prospect Burma provided each student with a data package to enable them to complete their final week remotely. The students were able to return to Yangon, when restrictions were temporarily lifted in late summer, to successfully take their IELTS exams.
We are currently redesigning our projects for 2021 in order to be adaptable to the challenges that COVID-19 brings.
Learning to Leadership
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused practical difficulties for first year scholars expecting to take up their place at higher education abroad. In some cases they have needed to defer their studies by a semester, or stay at home and study remotely until the borders reopen.
Prospect Burma has helped them cope with practical difficulties relating to travel, visas, accommodation and commencing online studies with their university or college. We are also providing pastoral care. We maintain continuous contact to support scholars through any challenges they may be facing, and facilitating online discussions to help them cope with isolation.
For scholars already abroad and starting the next year of their studies, we have supported them to stay in their place of study for their own safety. We provided additional financial help to 31 of our 35 continuing scholars to stay abroad, as well as practical advice and someone to talk to.
As we begin reviewing 2021-22 scholarship applications, we will be working with the tertiary education sector to scope the challenges ahead and adapt accordingly.
Change in the Community
Prospect Burma’s first Alumni Regional Cluster Hub (ARCH) was formed in Yangon early in 2020. Alumni members were quick to respond to the pandemic, delivering food and supplies to vulnerable people in local disadvantaged communities. Find out more.
Further ARCHs are planned in other areas, but have been postponed due do the COVID-19 pandemic. We will resume this project when it is safe to do so.
Our annual Alumni Conference is sadly cancelled in 2020. We are looking for other ways to help alumni connect with each other. We also recognise that alumni themselves are doing so much already to help their communities, and that their hard work – with Prospect Burma’s support – is already helping Myanmar meet the challenges it faces.
Prospect Burma staff, volunteers and supporters
Our UK and Myanmar offices are following relevant governments’ guidance, which includes physically closing as and when appropriate. Staff and volunteers continue to work digitally from home to support students in Myanmar. Our annual scholarship application process is open as usual from 1 December till 1 January.
Our outreach sessions for prospective scholars are being conducted online by our Myanmar office, rather than in person.
‘In-person’ supporter events in the UK are suspended for the moment. But this doesn’t mean we appreciate your efforts and contributions any less – in fact more so! We will be letting you know soon about other ways you can get involved.
Thank you to everyone who continues to support Prospect Burma in so many ways at this difficult time. If you have any questions about our response to COVID-19, please do not hesitate to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.