Every June we spend a couple of days in one of the westernmost districts of Quang Nam where the girls in CEF’s scholarship program live. For several years we have had a close relationship with a high school in that district about 20 kilometres from the border with Laos. About a quarter of the students in the school are from an ethic minority called the Gie Trieng and it is mostly these girls, in years 11 and 12, that CEF has been supporting for the past three years. They receive government help but this is never enough for all their education costs so many go without some essentials and some work to earn the extra they need. The scholarship CEF gives to these girls aims to fill that gap and to provide some financial relief so that they can give more time to their studies and less to working after school. We recognise, too, the duty they feel to their families, so we give permission for some of the scholarship to be used in family emergencies.
As a result of our last visit in early June we have made changes to this scholarship program. These changes were prompted by our improving understanding of what Gie Trieng people value most and more clarity around the assumptions we make about what would benefit the young women in the scholarship program.
An example of this relates to extra tuition classes. These are commonplace in Vietnamese schools and in these classes students are able to learn more of the curriculum they will be tested on. Non- attendance at extra classes can disadvantage a student who may end up with lower marks. The Gie Trieng girls were not attending these extra classes because they felt uncomfortable going to them alongside Vietnamese girls. When we learnt this we decided to experiment by offering extra classes for Gie Trieng girls only in year 11 and consultation with the school headmaster and teachers, confirmed that this could be a good way to help them improve their results and do better in grade 12. So for the 2018/19 school year all grade 11 Gie Trieng young women will be attend extra classes in maths, literature and English.