In addition to the ongoing health programs that had been established in Atabae, in 2010, Palms Australia received a request from Fr Sipriano Kakut SVD new parish priest in Sao Francsico De Assis Atabae.  This request was submitted in cooperation with the Friends & Partners with Australia [FPA] Community Committee, supported and in partnership with Friends & Partners with East Timor [FPET] for an English teacher to set up a community English program. 

Timor-Leste uses four languages which are recognised in the constitution and compete for space, both in education and in society generally [Tetun, Portuguese, Bahasa Indonesia and English]. While education policy tends to favour the Portuguese language, there is a feeling among students and parents that English and Bahasa Indonesia have more practical use. For this reason, and because many school teachers are not sufficiently fluent in Portuguese, English has remained the second language of choice and Palms has received many requests for English teachers in Timor Leste.

Establishing an English program and training English Teacher Assistants 2011-2012

Anne Chapman a Special Education Consultant and ESL Primary School Teacher accepted the requested position and commenced in February 2011, finishing in December 2012.

During Anne’s placement she successfully trained four local assistant teachers to teach English.

Jonh, Afon, Maria [Anne’s original Trainee Teachers]

One assistant teacher went on to a teaching position at the Catholic school teaching English in 2013.  A second assistant teacher has additional work as an interpreter and the other two continue to run the Community English program.

During her two year placement Anne and her assistant teachers achieved the following results:

  • Teaching 200 children, youth and adults with varying degrees of written and spoken English.
  • One of the students is now teaching English in Dili.
  • Two students gained first and second place in the regional National English Year 9 exams (approx. 5000 students).
  • One student achieved top score over all subjects in the region.
  • One student achieved highest score in English in the district (approx. 1500 students)
  • Twenty students can use Microsoft Word.
  • More than thirty students can speak in English for over 3 minutes on a variety of known subjects- home, family, their village, fishing, school, food.
  • Ten students have a level of English which enables them to translate oral speeches.
  • According to Anne all the advanced and most of the intermediate students speak better English than their school English teachers.
  • Thirty students have received scholarships to study in Dili-formal or informal education including Baucau Teachers College.
  • A community library with over 2000 books in English has been established and is used regularly.
  • Female students are more assertive, confident and participate fully in class.
  • All students are more confident and this can be seen in their posture, the volume in their voices, their eye contact, the way they initiate conversations in English at the market or walking to school, their plans for the future, the way they relate to teachers and make decisions.
  • Students have been challenged to broaden their thinking e.g. to think about the role of women, to have personal goals, to ask why and to think of consequences.

“…It is good development and we will continue the education program when Anne goes. Development of education is very good. During Anne’s presence many students have learned English and they can talk.  These primary school students only learned English for 6 months.   Some teachers are surprised the students can speak English but not speak Portuguese after learning for 6 years. Method to teach is different and very good”

[Jan 2013, Friends & Partners with Australia – Committee Members]
Education Clinic Lesson with Anne

Continuing to build on strengths in Education 2013-2015

Heather Henderson followed Anne, to continue building and consolidating established teaching strengths during April 2013 until May 2015.  In addition to the Community English Program, a multi-language library and literacy program [English, Tetum, and Portuguese] became operational providing educational opportunities from 4 year olds to adults.

The English teacher assistants achieved:

  • Certificate III in Planning & Assessment
  • Three are working in the local schools on a voluntary basis receiving an allowance
  • Gained management skills with the Scholarship Placement Program
  • Skills in financial management
  • Established a community sporting program
  • Continue to run the Community English Program

“…Heather has made a very good contribution in her work mentoring in English.   She brings the involvement of her student and builds capacity in the aspect of English communication. Therefore following our thinking this has continued our good relation in the long future”.

[Committee President, Friends & Partners with Australia]
Heather Henderson and students outside her home and community library

From May 2012 to May 2014 Ian Gray utilised his specialist IT skills, and worked in partnership with George [counterpart] and the Youth Association to:

  • Establish a Computer Library enabling  the community without computers to have access
  • Provide community Microsoft Word and Excel training
  • Conduct a Community English Class Program.

 “…To give English course and transfer knowledge and skills as computer course and soccer course to Atabae communities are ways to build the capacity of individuals and strengthen the institutions so that Palms volunteers had participated to develop the education especially non formal education in East Timor. Besides that, the volunteer had cared Atabae community at heath’s community centre to decrease malnutrition for the children to support the national program in East Timor.”

(Senor Alfredo Marcel Leite Jan, 2013
George and Ian in Atabae

Ensuring Localisation 2015

After four years of mentoring by Anne and Heather the Community Education Program was mostly localised with the English Teacher Assistants now fully coordinating the program.  To assist the program through transition, fortnightly mentoring opportunities were provided by:

Sam Haddin a Palms Australia teacher working with the Eskola Primira Sabracularan & Eskola Primira Bedois provided fortnightly mentoring support from July to December 2015:

  • Advanced English Classes for the Teacher Assistants (involving speaking, writing and listening skills, public speaking, formal speeches, grant proposal writing, constructing emails, Facebook appropriate usage and content.
  • Support with lesson planning

In conjunction with the fortnightly education mentoring, Philip Cranley, Palms participant working with Sao Paulo Education Foundation – Dili Diocese provided financial and administrative support to the education team and community committee [Friends & Partners with Australia] from July through until December 2015.

Philip Cranley and the Atabae Community Education Team

Community Development  2016-2017

Upon localising the Community Health and Education Programs the Atabae community were enthusiastic about identifying and developing new community programs that would aid the development of their local community. To help build skills in this area, a Palms participant was requested.  Veronica Chong [Social Worker] joined the Atabae community from June 2016 to September 2017. During her assignment Veronica’s role as outlined by Friends and Partners with Australia broadly stated the following:

  • Reaffirm and build on the strengths that already existed within the community
  • With community leaders, NGOs, health, education staff and community members explore and develop community goals and hopes based on locally identified gaps in services or community needs.
  • Facilitate and build capacity with the broader relationship between Atabae community programs and sustainable funding sources
Afon and Ivor [Teacher Assistants] with Veronica – Community English Program

As it was time for the funding relationship between FPET and the Atabae community to end, Veronica’s role with FPA was vital to help locally consolidate new streams of income to enable locally driven programs to continue into the future.  Throughout the 18 months of her assignment new local and international relationships were forged that would help to address the many needs in agriculture, marketing, water & sanitation.

A Partnership of Solidarity, Compassion and Collaboration

The relationship between FPET, FPA, Atabae Community and Palms Australia provides a great model for demonstrating how local Australian groups can provide support for overseas communities through Palms Australia participants.  

Communities here in Australia are inspired to provide funding support for overseas communities, and one of the most sustainable ways of doing this is to fund skill exchange.  Long after the funds have finished, and the Palms participant has left, the skills exchanged live on, continuing to bring benefit to individuals, families and communities.

Thank you Friends and Partners with East Timor [2004-2017]

End of FPET programs in Timor Leste Gathering [2018]

The Future

Palms Australia and the parish community of Atabae continue their partnership with ongoing requests for skill exchange.   Please view current Atabae positions.