Every country’s future is in the hands of its children. In the case of Timor-Leste – a young nation stepping out from under the dark shadow of conflict – this statement rings particularly true. Half the population are under eighteen, and one third of those are under eight.
Unfortunately, the Timorese government has many competing demands on limited resources. Building a pre-school in every community is not yet feasible. In Australia, 81% of children aged four attend a pre-school. In Timor-Leste, only 17% of children attend a public pre-school.
Children enrolling in primary school are generally not prepared and often it is the first time they have seen a book or even held a pencil. In addition, about 50% of children under the age of five in Timor-Leste have limited growth potential due to poor nutrition and hygiene. This has a significant impact on a child’s brain development and susceptibility to disease.
How We’re Helping
Due to Covid-19, Christine was repatriated back to Australia in March 2020. She eagerly awaits to return to the field when it is safe to do so.
In the outer Dili suburb of Bedois, Paroquia St Teresinha do Menino Jesus (St Therese of the Child Jesus Parish) has recently opened a pre-school (Pre-Escolar Santa Terezinha Do Menino Jesus Bedois) that provides an early childhood program for over 40 children. The program broadly aims to prepare pre-school children for starting primary school.
Palms Australia’s volunteers have provided support and mentoring to the local Director and teaching staff since it opened in 2017. In March 2018, Palms sent pre-school teacher Christine Davids to use her 35 years of experience to help build the staff’s understanding of child development; family involvement; curriculum development; resource development; and program planning and implementation.
With Christine’s support, the pre-school will continue to address the Timorese education gap for young, pre-school aged children.
Is the Project Sustainable?
Pre-School education provides parents with the opportunity to learn about the importance of good nutrition and child development. So far this volunteer role has helped establish programs that have increased parental involvement and staff development. With Christine’s support, the staff, students and parents will have more opportunities to improve their skills, learning, and confidence, which will serve them throughout their futures.
The amount raised includes the volunteer’s accommodation expenses, which have kindly been covered by the host community.