Small scholarships have a big impact
15 February 2013
Arba at her family’s home in Thailand
"Everyone dreams of having a good life, but it is hard for stateless people like us," says 19-year-old Arba, a member of the Akha hill tribe from Chiang Rai province in northern Thailand.
Arba is one of about a million stateless people in Thailand, whose births have not been registered. This limits their access to social services, like healthcare and education, and traps them in a cycle of poverty.
Arba, who lives with her parents and 2 younger brothers, was left with the responsibility to care for her family when her elder brother left school to find work.
"My parents work in the field and earn 240-300 baht (US$8-10) per month. It isn't enough for 5 family members so I help them by working on the weekend," she says.
Although she had this responsibility, Arba managed to continue her high school education. However in the last semester of grade 12, she watched as her friends discussed their plans for further study knowing that her future was uncertain.
"I really wanted to go to university but my family didn’t have enough money. [I knew] if I had a chance to go to university, I would study hard," she says.
And Arba's determination to stay in school paid off.
She received a scholarship as part of Plan Thailand’s Girls Scholarship Programme. This was introduced to help the country's most vulnerable and marginalised girls fulfil their right to an education and economic security.
"It was like having a new life after I received the scholarship," says Arba.
The scholarship program, which began in 2011, encourages girls from ethnic communities (with a focus on disadvantaged areas) and poor families to complete high school and university level study. Plan covers tuition fees and other essential costs for things like books and transport.
The case for investing in girls' education is well-established. When girls have a good education behind them, they are better equipped to earn a decent living that will benefit their family, community and country.
"I want the grown-ups to recognise my potential so that I can reach that potential and contribute to society like others," says Arba.