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Supporting the future in Viet Nam

Earlier in 2018 ANZ and its partners constructed and opened a 10th school in rural Vietnam as part of Project 3-E, completing a years-long venture which has changed the lives of 4,000 people across the country.

This is the 3-E story. 

Education is an investment in a country’s most-vital resource: its people. A study from the Asian Development Bank suggests a nation which provides a single additional year of schooling to children can raise its economic output by 3 per cent to 6 per cent over time.

"Education is an investment in a country’s most-vital resource.”

The data, which show spending on education as a share of total public expenditure, highlight the importance of financial support of education - and how it can pay off for everyone.

In Viet Nam, the commitment is strong. The South-east Asian nation allocated over 20 per cent of its total revenue in 2010 to education, a bigger proportion than any other country in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

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Vietnam and International staff volunteering on construction sites. Source: Provided.

As Eugenia Victorino wrote in January, the success at student level in Vietnam in the fields of science and mathematics points to the success of its government’s focus on basic education.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) encourages a ‘sufficient’ benchmark spending on education of at least 5 per cent of gross domestic product. Among major Asian nations only Vietnam and Malaysia make the cut at 5.7 per cent and 5.0 per cent of GDP respectively.

It’s an investment paying off in spades. According to the BBC, standardised testing in 2015 showed 15-year-olds in Viet Nam outperformed many developed countries - including the United States and United Kingdom - in reading, mathematics and science.

However there are ongoing challenges: as of that same year around 37 per cent of Vietnamese children aged 15 – particularly in regional, underdeveloped areas - were not enrolled in school. Additionally, UNICEF suggests early childhood education in the country does not receive sufficient attention in certain areas and remote regions.

In many cases a low level of education among parents and a shortage of access to facilities and essentials like books, toys and other materials are the cause. 

Luckily help is at hand – from the corporate sector. 

Help

For banks like ANZ, corporate social responsibility initiatives are evolving. I’ve spoken before about my confidence in financial institutions leading the way in fighting poverty, both around the world and in Asia. 

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Temporary classrooms like this were in use in Hau Giang Province. Source: Provided.

According to McKinsey & Co, banks can create value for themselves and their customers by working with communities in low-income areas.

For its part, ANZ partnered with the Saigon Children’s Charity (SCC), a UK-registered NGO which has been operating in Vietnam for nearly 25 years, and Hậu Giang Province in the Mekong Delta region of Viet Nam to deliver better facilities for students in some of Viet Nam’s most-underdeveloped regions.

ANZ was one of the first foreign banks to open in the country and has operated there since 1993.

The project, Project 3-E (short for ‘Educate – Enrich – Employ’) is a long-running community initiative which has just completed its objectives after four and a half years.

The ultimate purpose of Project 3E was to help ‘educate’ children in one of the poorest provinces in Viet Nam, ‘enrich’ their lives, thereby providing them with opportunities to get ’employed’ and break out of poverty. 

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The project transformed the old and falling apart Vinh Vien A Kindergarten into a bright, well-equipped and safe environment for the local kids. Source: Provided

Why?

Project 3-E was one which was sorely needed. Research from Saigon Children showed as of 2012 there were 81 classrooms in unstable condition in the Long My District. By the end of the project 30 new classrooms had been completed.

Long Mỹ is a rural district of Hậu Giang - one of the poorest districts within the Province with 6,026 households – over 15 per cent - in poverty as of 2012. The average income in the period was around $US70 per month.

Among the population of 160,000 there are almost 8,000 children aged between two and five years and 14,000 between six and 11 years of age.

In 2012 the local government built six schoolrooms but the income for continued building was unstable. It was hoped approximately 17 rooms per year would be build depending on funding outcomes. 

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Luong Tam Kindergarten in Long My, Hau Giang in 2013 before being renovated by ANZ’s supported community initiative – Project 3E. Source: Provided

Equipment for all schools was almost non-existent. Almost every school touched on by 3-E needed to be equipped with projectors, screens, equipment and materials for labs, computer rooms.

The local authorities didn’t have a clear plan for building special schools. Nor were they aware of the needs for building capacity for teachers with responsibility for children with disabilities either.

In addition to the hardware need, 3E also identified a requirement to ensure sustainability through building capacity for local staff members in project management, monitoring and evaluation support, such as job orientation and life-skills training. 

Delivered

By the end of the project, 3-E it had delivered 10 schools, helped 878 student a year, built 30 classrooms, offered 900 scholarships, and provided almost 2000 people with access to information technology equipment. ANZ staff alone raised a total of $A650,000 for the project.

At ANZ, we believe by connecting people and businesses we can create a strong, cohesive and vibrant community.

ANZ’s goal through Project 3-E was not just to be bankers but to have a meaningful impact on the communities in which we live and work. ANZ saw a real opportunity to contribute, harnessing the collective energy of its entire global team to make a substantial difference via a single, targeted social responsibility project.

ANZ is very grateful to its partners from Saigon Children which provided constant focus on both the ‘hardware’ and ‘software’ – a combined approach of investing in both school infrastructure and student participation and involving monetary as well as non-monetary means of supporting the target community.

This help enabled many ANZ staff to contribute to the building efforts for many of the new classrooms in Hau Giang - some staff even flew from as far as New Zealand to help out with the construction.

It certainly takes more than just financial support to turn muddy swamp and falling apart buildings into modern, hygienic and well-equipped classrooms and to provide disadvantaged families more options by helping to build their capabilities.

ANZ is also thankful to the Provincial Authorities of Hau Giang and all the school officials and teachers for doing the ‘real’ hard work of educating and empowering these young kids.

Led and funded by our staff around the world, with great enthusiasm, energy and passion to make a difference in the community, Project 3E has successfully achieved its objectives set out four years ago.

Before & after

Images from some of ANZ’s work pre and post construction.

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Source: Provided

Ceremony

More than four years after that research concluded, the opening ceremony of Thuan Hoa 2 Kindergarten and Primary School in Long My District marked the successful completion of Project 3-E.

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The opening of a 3-E school. Source: Provided.

The contribution ANZ made to this community helped improve the lives of thousands of local children.

While the building and construction phase of Project 3-E has now finished, as a bank ANZ looks forward to seeing the students involved continue to flourish in the years to come – perhaps even becoming bankers themselves in the future!

I am personally very excited about the permanent difference to these kids’ lives which can now be observed for years to come. While the project may not be solving world poverty, by focusing its collective effort I really hope ANZ has made - and will continue to make - a targeted and sustainable impact in this one community in need in Vietnam.

Sreeram Iyer is Chief Operating Officer Institutional at ANZ

The views and opinions expressed in this communication are those of the author and may not necessarily state or reflect those of ANZ.

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