2020 Report from Quy Vuot Kho
The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted all our lives but for the people living in the Central provinces of Vietnam, where many of our Fellows come from, COVID was only one of the crises faced in 2020. The region also suffered from thirteen typhoons in 2020. Viet Nam suffers typhoons every year but 2020 witnessed an unusually high numbers of damaging typhoons leading to loss of life and a huge economic damage.
Therefore this year Quy Vuot Kho aimed to provide additional Fellowships to students from regions of Viet Nam affected by these typhoons. Many of these students from have chosen not to apply for Quy Vuot Kho (QVK) Fellowships in previous years, as one student articulated - “In previous years, I did not apply as I would like to save the scholarships for those with more finance difficulty than me, while I could still manage with little support from my family. But this year we have lost everything with so many typhoons”. Other applicants applied for scholarships this year because “In previous year I was still able to earn money from part time work to manage the university fees and living costs. But this year because of COVID there was no work available since so many small businesses, shops and restaurants, were closed due to COVID-19. Then my family couldn’t support me either as they also struggle at the moment with no work available and then there will hit by the devastating typhoons”.
A few alumni decided not return to apply this year, we contacted them to ask for a reason, we heard “Lives in Central provinces suffered so much damage and for so long (months of floods and typhoon came one after the others) that so many class-mates faced great difficulty to complete their studies as they totally lost all financial support from their families. I encouraged these to apply as they needed it most. I came from southern provinces and my situation was not as severe as these people. I could not financially contribute to support those in central provinces like many others, doing this I felt I also could help too”.
One applicant said:“I prepared my application way ahead and have been waiting for the announcement to immediately apply. I really need this scholarship to pay for university fees to be able to attend my exams, to graduate and to work to earn money to support my family. The opportunity for part-time job is much less this year and as I am from Central province with strong local accent, I was not able to find a tutoring job (young students in HCMC could not understand with my strong accent from central Vietnam). The scholarship really is my last hope this year”.
One applicant said “I could not afford time and cost to attend English class so I went to the Back-Packer area of HCMC to learn and practice English in a small group (when we were allowed to meet), which became less frequent this year but there still few (foreign) English teachers offering that for free, I try my best to go there now. I lost my part-time job, even the tutoring one, so I had to go home during the COVID online teaching this helped to save rent, living costs and I could support my family with labour work at home. In the province we could live with very little as we have vegetable in the garden, which my parents could not sale elsewhere during that period, and fishes in the rice field to catch.”
Their future plans included: “I come from the Centre of Viet Nam so I have always been aware not to be wasteful, but this year with lessons from double disasters, these values from my parents hit me strongly and made me love my poor province and made me commit to give back one day, instead of thinking about leaving. Also, it confirmed that I was right to choose to be a biologist to study more about the life science. The recent events taught me to think more maturely and prepare my future path after observing the great difficulties my people going through. Their strength and resilience to stop crying and restart eveything on the same plot of land, their skill sets to face the natural disaster to reduce the damage and start again, have impacted me to be more mature in learning to contribute one day. Knowledge is definitely one way to improve my life and my family’s living condition and to look forward in the future. Anything like this could happen again and this is a life time experience, I will learn a lot from this.
Those comments really brought home to use how important the Quy Vuot Kho is to so many students from poorer provinces or Viet Nam. If we are to maximise the opportunities for all the people of Viet Nam, if we are to build an equitable and just society, we have to be able to encourage and support these young students and offer them the same opportunities and a way into education and a university degree.
In 2020, information for the QVK Fellowships were announced on our website and the University fan page, social media, the website of the Biology and Biotechnology Department of National University. This year, we decided not to call for donations or contributions from others since we understood that the COVID-19 situation would lead to income reduction of many of our supporters. However, we still received around 50 Million VND (£1600) directly with approximately 50% of this from the lectures of the department. The contribution of Farrar Foundation helped enormously for us to make decision in this situation. We knew we had and will have money from Farrar Foundation. We prepared that we may not have funds for the 15 year Anniversary in 2021 but we are determined to carry on our mission to support the students this year, especially those in the final year. Despite the challenges of 2020 we were able to offer 31 Fellowships.
The interviews were organised on 15th November 2020 and the award ceremony on 20th November 2020. This is Teachers Day and in such a terrible year, a day to celebrate. The Award Ceremony was held at the National University of Science with Dr Nguyen Tri Nhan and Ms Bui Thi Nhu Ngoc, Head and Deputy Head of Biology and Biotechnology Department of University of Natural Science. Also present were Associate Professor Dang Thi Phuong Thao, Head of Post Graduate Training Office, MSc Phung Le Cang, Lecturer of the Department and Head of Campus One of University of Natural Science. Associate Professor Nguyen Du Sanh, previous Head of Biology and Biotechnology Department. In addition, the management board of Quy Vuot Kho and all the students attended.
Over the last fifteen years, QVK has made 373 awards, of these the Farrar Foundation has supported 117 Fellowships since 2011. We are greatly indebted with the generous support and partnership of the Farrar Foundation.