The Asia Foundation’s Vietnam Country Representative’s speech at the fifth-yearMerali scholarship award ceremony at NUCE

On September 23, 2015

Dear teachers and students,

Colleagues and friends,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It’s my great honor to welcome all of you here today at the scholarship award ceremony of the Merali scholarship for Vietnamese women, which is co-organized by the Asia Foundation, The Center for Education and Development, and the National University of Civil Engineering. This is the fifth year of the program since we launched it in October 2011.

DSC_0885 Dr Michael DiGregorio, Country representative of the Asia Foundation in VIetnam

With the financial support from the Merali Foundation, The Asia Foundation cooperates with The Center for Education and Development to develop and implement the Merali Scholarship program in Vietnam. The scholarship covers the cost of tuition, educational supplies, and books for gifted female students who have been accepted into university but wouldbe unlikely to continue their education at university due to financial difficulties.

The Merali Scholarship Program is supporting 100 young women to attend four-year or five-year undergraduate degree programs in hard sciences at three prominent, public universities in Vietnam. Among them 40 women are in the four-year Bachelor of Science program at the HanoiNational University; 40 are in the five-year Bachelor of Science program at Hanoi University of Science and Technology; and 20 are in the five-year Bachelor of Science program in Civil Engineering at the Hanoi National University of Civil Engineering. 33Merali scholars from Hanoi National University have just graduated this summer.

This program was designed to support academically promising young women from poor rural and remote areas. For most Merali Scholars, transferring from a rural school with limited teaching materials and poor quality teaching to an elite, urban university is a dramatic change. Not surprisingly, many have had a very difficult time adjusting. We try to support these girls by linking them with other girls in similar conditions. However, adjusting to a new university setting is not the only problem they face. While their urban-based peers have the option to live with their families while attending university, most Merali Scholars must find affordable rented accommodation, often far from campus. They also lack opportunities for the additional tutoring due to financial limitations, or in the case of many girls, theneed to cover living expenses by working after school. Finally, since many Merali scholars are students in programs dominated by male students, and in fact some girls are the only female in their class, they also face pressure in the classroom.

The Merali Foundation University Scholarship Program for Vietnamese Women is having a significant, positive impact on the lives of participating scholars and their families. The young women are grateful for the opportunity. They understand it would be very challenging for them to study without the scholarship. This opportunity will enable them to get better jobs, break the cycle of poverty, and gain self-confidence, all eventually contributing to their future, and that of their families and communities.

We are pleased to see the gradual increase in GPAs for the scholars as they have gotten used to their new surroundings, taken advantage of the support provided by the program, and begun to excel. Through different activities organized by the program, Merali scholars also learn a lot of soft skills necessary for their future. In addition, scholars have also had chances to meet, interact and exchange information and experience with a number of recruitment agencies that were able to help them better understand employers’ perspective and prepare for this even before graduation. As per our analysis, the scholars who actively participated in all the project activities will likely get a job after the graduation. In face, out of the 33 scholars who have graduated this summer, 14have already found a job and 2 will pursue graduate education.

Dear Merali scholars: Many people support and believe in your abilities and bright futures are within your hands. In return, it also requires your great efforts in your study in order to meet the expectation of your families, your teachers and the generousdonor from far away, the Merali Foundation, who gave you these scholarships. And you should bear in mind this great support, so that in the future when you succeed, you will do the same as the Merali Foundation has been doing now, to support other people who are not as lucky as you are. I hope the 67 Merali scholars, who will graduate next summer, will achieve best scores in your last year and will either get a job that you like or pursue higher education as you wish.

Finally, I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Ms. Yasmin Merali and the Merali Foundation for your support to the girls’ education in Vietnam. I would also like to thank the Center for Education and Development, Hanoi National University, Hanoi University of Science and Technology and the Hanoi National University of Civil Engineering for your cooperation in this program.

Thank you very much, again and wishing all of you a good health. Good luck to our scholars!