by Marilou Suplido, ChildFund Timor-Leste Program Manager, with reporting by program team members
Timor-Leste has one of the highest birth rates in the world, with almost 70 percent of the population under age 25. Educating Timor’s children is essential to ensuring this young country has a brighter future.
ChildFund Timor-Leste is working with its local partners to help fill the gaps where government is not yet able to keep up with the demands of the growing number of children going to school.
Two primary schools in the remote southwest Covalima District are benefitting from ChildFund’s support through the Community Partner Organisation Graca.
Lontale Primary School is just one example of an under-resourced school struggling to meet the needs of schoolchildren. It has 336 students in grades 1 to 6, and just three classrooms. In fact, the school has so many enrolled students it has divided the students into two groups, with older and younger students attending class at different times of day.
ChildFund has assisted the school by providing desks and chairs, and we’ve built an office for the teachers. “There are many primary schools in the 13 districts of the country,” explains Jose Gusmao, school director, “and although we are always asking the government for support, the resources are limited. Hence, the support from ChildFund has meant that our schoolchildren do not have to sit on the floor during their class.”
In nearby Sukabilaran Primary School, until earlier this year, all 120 students were sitting on the floor. Ignacio,12, is a student in the fifth class. He says that he and his friends “felt sad” when they had to sit on the ground. Writing and studying were difficult.
His schoolmate, Florentina, 13, nods in agreement. “I am very happy that ChildFund provided chairs and desks for our school,” she says. Florentina explains that she has a long walk to school, but is always prepared to make the trip because she loves school. She wants to continue studying so that when she grows up she can become a teacher.
ChildFund sees improving school facilities as an entry point in working together with the government and the community to ensure that children can be educated in a safe and child-friendly environment. Our goal is to help students finish school and achieve better educational outcomes.
By providing schools with basic services such as desks, chairs, books and teaching materials, as well as water and sanitation, ChildFund envisions that more children like Florentina will continue to enjoy attending school. Better educated and more confident children are needed for Timor’s future development.