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Foundation for the Education of Rural Children

Scholarships for students from low-income families in Northern Thailand

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One of the recent gathering of students who received scholarship funds from FERC! :)

The Foundation for the Education of Rural Children (FERC) is a registered charitable foundation that provides scholarships for students from low-income families in Northern Thailand. In Thailand, the basic education is free but when a student reaches 15 years of age, parents have to contribute towards the school fees and continue to pay some of the other associated costs – uniform, transport, lunches, etc. A FERC scholarship, therefore, enables students from low-income families to remain at school until they are 18 years of age, to promote their ability to go on to further education or training, and to better employment opportunities in the future. FERC works closely with the area Education Authority and the teachers to identify the highly motivated students who are most in need of our support. FERC meets with the students twice a year when the scholarship money is distributed, and they visit the schools from time to time. In this way, they receive regular updates on their progress. FERC is managed and administered purely by volunteers who meet some of all the associated administrative costs themselves. FERC’s administrative costs are under 4%!

FERC Beneficiary Story

Beneficiaries Gift and Nu attended the Mae Rim Wittayakom School, a town that is situated within the Chiang Mai province. About 10% of the 1,500 students come from hill tribes located in the mountains around the city. Gift and Nu are Shan girls. Part of the Shan population settled in Thailand because of the deprivation and often armed conflict. Here too they belong to the disadvantaged population groups, however, the situation is much safer there than across the border. The village of Gift and Nu is too remote even for the school bus system. That is why during the week they stay in a special shelter for students who live too far from school. After graduating from school, Gift wants to continue studying to become a dentist. Nu does not yet have a concrete follow-up plan in mind. FERC volunteers met with Gift and Nu because they visited four schools as part of the sponsorship procedure. During those visits, they also talked to the sponsored students. An hour later they met Mai, who is going to the Naramindarajudis Phayap High School located in Don Kaeo, Mae Rim on the outskirts of Chiang Mai. It has about 1,700 students attending.

Mai comes from a Hmong village that is very popular among tourists because it is a hill tribe village that is closest to Chiang Mai City. About 200 people live in her village and Mai wants to study English and Chinese so that later she can work as a tour guide in her own village. The people in her village form a very close-knit community, which ensures that the Hmong traditions do not disappear. Not only because they feel connected to it, but also because they realize very well that it is their source of income. Mai loves the many different cultures that go together at school but eventually wants to return to her hometown. Her village is too far from school to travel back and forth on a daily basis, but her sister lives in the city, so Mai stays with her during the school days. On days off, she is with her parents and also wears the full Hmong costume. They don’t know how well her Chinese is progressing, but it will certainly work well with her English given the number of Chinese tourists that visit Chiang Mai. After a hesitant start, she speaks to us in pretty good English.

From Mai’s school the volunteers drove to the relatively small Ho Phra School located within the old Chiang Mai City limits. The  school has 550 students, including Ice and Eggue. They are both from the city itself. Eggue, like the aforementioned Gift, wants to become a dentist. Ice says that she is very concerned about the environment and the climate and that she, therefore, wants to become an environmental engineer, so that she can contribute to a solution to the major issues of our time.

Finally, they visited the Yupparaj Wittayalai School, also within the old Chiang Mai City limits. With 3,000 students, it is the largest of the 4 schools we visited. It was very busy because events are just taking place to close the school year. Thai schools have holidays in April and May, the hottest months of the year. It was noticed at the other schools that the students could express themselves reasonably well in English, Bow, Pam and Fern’s English is exceptionally good. Of course, they have yet to expand their vocabulary, but it is striking that they have learned that the Thai language rules do not apply to English. Their teacher turns out to be of Finnish origin who does indeed insist on the correct pronunciation every time, no matter how crazy they think it sounds. The three girls talked very openly and easily with the ‘farang’ (the Thai word for foreigner) volunteers that became larger after the French-Thai couple, who sponsor Bow, had joined us. Bow wants to continue studying to be a doctor after this school, like quite a lot of Thai students appear to aim for. In that respect, today’s mini-sample is quite representative. Fern, like Mai, wants to study English and Chinese, but her plan is to use it to get a job as a flight attendant. Pam is the most notable when it comes to continuing her studies. She plays the guitar and wants to become a musician. They fully agree on what is the most difficult thing at school: studying at home a lot because of Covid. Online it is much harder to keep your attention and you miss your friends.

Bow, Pam, and Fern have just finished the first year of their FERC scholarship. Gift, Noe, Mai, Ice and Eggue joined in 2019 and are now starting their final year.