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At a glance: Timor-Leste

A head start in Timor-Leste

By Simon Nazer

In a remote community in Timor-Leste, a new preschool gives children like Roque and Domingas a place to play and learn. UNICEF and partners are working together to build more preschools throughout the country, so all children will have access to early childhood education.

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© UNICEF EAPRO/2015/Nazer
Five-year-old Roque in Lauana Groto, Timor-Leste. Roque and his peers are learning and playing at a new preschool in their village, which sits in one of the most remote areas in the world.

LAUANA GROTO, Timor-Leste, 20 April 2016 – As soon as the teacher tosses the football outside, all the young preschoolers in Lauana Groto village, Timor-Leste, jump up from their small blue chairs. Just a split second after she utters the word “outside”, the children are on their way, excitedly running to the playground in preparation for the next lesson.

For five-year-old Roque, this is one of the best parts of the day. “I love it!” he screams between fits of laughter and giggles. 

Young Roque starts running hard; wherever the football goes, he follows. Dust rises around his small legs as he skirts around the playground with a cluster of children, following the ball as it bounces over the rough, dry ground.

A girl in shorts, taller and faster, tackles the ball from Roque and kicks it forward. His smile lights up even more - the chase is on again.

The teacher watches for a short while before clapping her hands and calling her students together. It’s time for the lesson to start.

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© UNICEF EAPRO/2015/Nazer
Roque and his classmates chase after a football. Playing is an integral part of learning and developing, as well as a basic right for every child.

She organizes the children into a circle and shows them how to throw and catch the ball. One after the other, she throws the ball to each child. Every now and again the ball is dropped, and in a flash Roque and his friends start chasing the ball, still grinning ear to ear.

The right to play

Early childhood development and education programmes give children the best possible chance to succeed and stay in school, and playing is an integral part of learning and developing, as well as a basic right for every child.

Unfortunately, few children in Timor-Leste have a chance to attend preschool, which contributes to difficulties in education later in life, such as dropping out of school.

Back in class, the teacher takes the children through some basic writing exercises, asking them to come to a flip chart and trace a number.

Domingas is next up and asked to trace a number three. She steadies a large marker pen in her hand, fixes her focus on the dotted outline on the board in front of her, and with all her concentration slowly traces a '3'. Her classmates sit silent and still, watching and waiting for the final result.

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© UNICEF EAPRO/2015/Nazer
Domingas learns how to write by tracing numbers on a flip chart. The basic skills acquired in these classes will give children like Roque and Domingas a head start in life at a critical stage in their development.

After a few seconds she steps back and smiles. She’s done it. The class applauds, and the teacher praises her as she skips back to her chair with mixture of pride and relief on her face.

The first eight years of a child’s life are a critical time for development. That’s why UNICEF supported the construction of Roque and Domingas’ preschool which sits in one of the most remote areas in the world. UNICEF also helps by providing furniture, equipment, learning materials and teacher training.

Reaching remote communities

Preschools like this one give children the ideal springboard towards a brighter future.

As part of the Government of Timor-Leste’s 'Eskola Foun' (child friendly schools) initiative, UNICEF is supporting the construction of public preschools in communities throughout Timor-Leste. These preschools are built next to primary schools to facilitate the smooth transition of students from pre- to primary school.

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© UNICEF EAPRO/2015/Nazer
Preschool children gather outside a classroom. Children who complete preschool are more likely stay in school through primary and secondary school.

UNICEF also supplies another 156 preschools with learning materials, supported by the Australian Government’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT).

Children in urban areas receive a better quality education than those in rural areas. Difficult terrain, poor roads and local languages are just some of the challenges in efforts to reach every child in areas such as Luana Groto village.

Thanks to this initiative, these children will have a better chance at receiving a quality education.

The basic skills acquired in these classes will give children like Roque and Domingas a head start in life at a critical stage in their development.

UNICEF continues to work with the Government of Timor-Leste towards ensuring a quality preschool education for all children, no matter who or where they are – for a brighter future for all.


 

 

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