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At a glance: Timor-Leste

Schools outside Timor-Leste capital overcrowded with students fleeing conflict

UNICEF Image: Children in Baucau Town, Timor-Leste
© Timor-Leste/2006/Ruiz
Children singing outside Don Bosco Primary School in Baucau Town, Timor-Leste. Though the school has become a refuge for around 350 people displaced from Dili, it is still functioning and some displaced children have signed up for classes.

By Tani Ruiz

BAUCAU TOWN, Timor-Leste, 3 July 2006 – Over 700 secondary students fleeing violence in Dili, the capital of Timor-Leste, flooded into schools in the eastern district of Baucau last month. Ever since, Baucau Town’s three secondary schools have been struggling to cope with the overflow.

Some 25,000 people – about a third of those estimated to have decamped from the capital – moved to Baucau District following the escalation of violence in Dili at the end of May. Throughout the crisis, Baucau has remained calmer than the capital, with no major incidents of violence and most services still functioning.

The government has also instructed all primary schools in Baucau District to take in every child displaced from Dili. It is not yet known how many primary school-age children have enrolled in Baucau’s schools, but one primary school in the town is struggling to cope with an additional 160 pupils.

Another school, Don Bosco Primary, is still holding classes even though it has become a refuge for more than 350 displaced people.

Overburdened facilities

Of the 150 teachers who have come to Baucau District from the capital, 120 are already at work in primary, secondary and vocational schools. National exams are scheduled to go ahead as scheduled this month but will be slightly delayed in some districts.

Meanwhile, schools in the district have inadequate sanitation systems and face shortages of basic resources, from furniture to writing materials to food for students.

“If the numbers keep increasing, all facilities will be hugely overburdened. Where are we going to put the extra students?” asks Baucau District Education Superintendent Rodolfo Henrique Aparicio.

UNICEF has been working with the Government of Timor-Leste to rebuild primary education, and providing support in the areas of water and sanitation, health and child protection.



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