Imagine you have just received the result of your secondary school certificate exam (equivalent to GCSE O’Levels). Congratulations! You have been awarded the highest grades: GPA 5, securing more than 80 per cent in all the subjects. You and your whole family celebrate while you start planning to go to a top college. Future is all set! But what if you are an indigenous girl in a poor family of five like Laome? Or what if your father is unemployed and your mother takes care of you and your three siblings on her own like Habib’s family? The future does not look that bright now – it looks quite bleak.
BRAC identifies brave souls like these and provides monthly stipends, English and ICT training and cash grants for university preparation. If students continue to uphold good results (which they usually do), the scholarship gets extended for the next four years of their university education. BRAC spends a little over USD 500 per student every year in the higher secondary level and over USD 700 per year for a student who makes it to university.
Aptly named Medhabikash (meaning ‘nurturing’ or ‘promoting talent’), the programme establishes a support mechanism, harnessing the existing potential these kids have. The results are remarkable: most of the first batch of graduates have started their own careers or are pursuing higher studies.
All over the world, there are various forms of these scholarship programmes that are changing young people’s lives for the better. MasterCard Foundation is already doing it in a big scale in Africa through their Scholars Program where BRAC is also a part of the initiative in Uganda. The private sector in Bangladesh is active in this sphere too, providing a number of scholarships, run by commercial banks and multinational corporations.
However, with gaps in funding, only 500 meritorious students can be accepted into Medhabikash per year. What happens to the thousands who get left out and do not manage to get another scholarship? As I said before, the future is pretty bleak for them.
People who are living in Bangladesh or are still in touch with Bangladesh know that the secondary school certificate exams finished a month ago and the results will be published soon. A new batch of Habibs and Laomes will be graduating with top results, but will have less of a chance to progress further. BRAC has reached more than 3,500 students so far, will you help to make it a bigger success?
To contribute, please contact:
BRAC Education Programme
BRAC Centre (10th floor)
Dhaka, Bangladesh 1212
Tel: +88 02 9221265, Ext: 3410/3433
By Rakib Avi, manager of communications and partnership at BRAC Communications