Over the last year, there has been considerable transition on my end (with my departure from Singapore), but there has been continuity with the support for education efforts in the Malot village tract in Myanmar near Bogalay.

image 1After a tremendously successful fund-raiser in Singapore in January of 2014, thanks to the kindness of my former colleague Brian Mooney and his musician friends, we were able to support two students to attend the Bogalay high school directly – Nandar Tun and Bo Min Chein (on left in photo on left). One of these students was graciously directlyimage 2 supported by Professor Andrew Harding. Additional support was given to five other students to cover their high school fees over the year (three of these are in the photo on the right), all of the other top students who interviewed for the annual scholarship. Contributions were also allocated to prizes for the top students in each year of the middle school, for support for the school library and to supplement the tuition cost for teachers to teach high school classes in the Malot village. These commitments were made possible by the generosity of those who attended the fundraiser, continued support from the SAIS community and a strengthening of the partnership with local leaders in the community. We have over five years of support for education in Malot.

image 3In November 2014, I returned to the village to interview students for the 2015 scholarship. There were considerable changes on the ground. There is a now a bridge over the river, which allows for better access to the village area. This will have important spillovers for economic development generally. The headmaster whom I worked with for the last five years has been transferred and there is now new leadership of the school. The village committee membership has changed as well, but the strong ties remain. The new headmistress is working to have formal recognition for the high school. She has expanded the library options for the students. There have been modest changes to the middle school’s appearance as well, with the funds donated from earlier years for upkeep having an impact. Last year they used funds we gave them to improve the ceiling.

image 4As always, there were eager students ready to interview for the annual scholarship named after my father to attend the Bogalay high school. The decision was difficult. Students spoke of the need for greater engagement with youth, improving health and education systems, enhancing credit and technology for farmers and more. They were filled with dreams of giving back, as doctors, teachers and engineers. This year Thein Zar Kyee was chosen to attend the high school for the upcoming year starting in June 2015, with the school fees of the other four interviewees also supported to attend school in the village. Thein Zar Kyee (right) will join Bo Min Chein who is in his final year.

Two of the Project Malot alumni are now in university. Myint Myint is studying mathematics and Nandar Tun has started to study medicine. She is studying through distance learning, as she still lacks funds to attend university. The options for higher education within Myanmar remain limited and for many financially out of reach. We are providing some support for their university studies.

Over the last two years Project Malot has expanded to work with the local monastery to support education. The monastery led by Abbott U Kalartha organizes high school classes for multiple villages tracts in the area. With the kind donation of friends working collectively, we will be supporting 50 students to take their exams for high school this March. Last year we were able to support 75 students. There are many more students in need of support who cannot afford the fees to take the exam, to have an opportunity to learn and fulfill their dreams. This effort is modest, but it remains a dynamic link fostering mutual understanding and the shared goal of promoting education.

As we enter the sixth year of engagement, Myanmar is facing a challenging time. Political issues are coming to a head in an election year and the challenges of implementing economic reform remain as prominent as ever. For Project Malot, the progress has been slow, but promising. Thanks to all for their generosity in the support of this project. We plan on hosting a fundraiser in Kuala Lumpur this year in April. Do join if you can!