Young learners and parents mark Karin Hulshof’s first visit to Timor-Leste

Young learners and parents mark Karin Hulshof’s first visit to Timor-Leste

UNICEF Timor-Leste
education matata
UNICEF Timor-Leste/2018/bsoares
23 December 2018

Karin Hulshof, Regional Director, East Asia and Pacific Region, UNICEF made her first visit to Timor-Leste from 11 to 14 December 2018.  During her visit, Karin met government officials development partners and UNICEF colleagues. She spent a day in Ermera municipality accompanied by Valerie Taton, UNICEF Representative in Timor-Leste, visiting different programmes being implemented in partnership with the government, local authorities and communities.

“Everyone loves and respects Timor-Leste,” Karin said.  “Compared to many young countries, this island country is doing well. Infant mortality has dropped more than half, maternal mortality halved, more than 90 per cent students are enrolled in school, and the country has put huge efforts in nation building.”

Following a referendum on independence in 1999, Timor-Leste restored its independence in 2002 as an independent country.

“However, there are high-levels of malnutrition among children aged under five years and women of reproductive age, growing disparity between rich and poor, and a youth population (under 18 years) of more than 46 per cent requiring education and opportunities. This poses huge challenges to the ongoing development of the country,” Karin said. 


Walking through the village: A day in Ermera municipality

In Ermera municipality, Karin was welcomed by six-year-old Selviana and Jesilania along with the village chief and community members. The children from the UNICEF-supported community preschool gave Karin tais, a traditional handwoven scarf, to honour her. The village chief explained how the UNICEF supported community-led total sanitation movement has changed Matata village, freeing it from open defecation. 

“We built our toilet by ourselves. We collect rainwater for our use,” said villager, Idonia Filomeno, 36, while proudly showing her newly built toilet to Karin. “Access to water is a huge challenge for us. Often I need to walk more than an hour to fetch water from the stream when there is no rain.” 

hygiene matata
UNICEF Timor-Leste/2018/bsoares
Idonia Filomeno, 36, proudly showing her newly built toilet to Karin Hulshof, Regional Director, EAPRO during her field visit to Matata Village, Ermera Municipality.

Though Ermera is well known for growing the best coffee in the country, access to water is a problem faced by many communities across the municipality. 


Spending time with young learners and parents

Young children welcomed Karin with songs and dances when she reached the Mau-Ane-Colacu community pre-school. Led by their volunteer teachers, the young learners showed their best drawings to Karin. 

Nine children stood out among the pupils; they have completed their pre-school and are preparing to go enroll in Grade 1 in 2019. Rosalina (6) is one of them. She proudly received her certificate from Karin for her achievement along with the other graduates. 

“Being a volunteer, I feel proud of my students as I’m teaching the future leaders of my country,” said Martinho, the preschool teacher. 

In 2016, UNICEF set up community-based pre-schools as an alternative delivery mode, ensuring access to learning opportunities to children in remote areas. The Mau-Ane-Colacu Community Preschool is one of the 123 community pre-schools set up by UNICEF in two municipalities as a cost-effective, sustainable way of accelerating pre-school expansion.

welcome to matata
UNICEF Timor-Leste/2018/bsoares
Meeting parents and children as part of the visit in Matata village.

As children were in class, parents were attending a meeting at the village chief’s office on positive parenting – a programme supported by UNICEF.  An improvised drama on parenting led to an animated discussion on positive parenting practices and its implications on children’s lives. 

“If we treat our children well and invest in them with health, education, and nutrition, they will become responsible adults in the future,” said Karin while observing the session and talking to parents.


Meeting the youngest citizen and young journalists

In the maternity ward of the Gleno Community Health Centre, Karin met one the youngest citizens of the country who was born three hours before her visit. Wrapped in cloth, the newborn was sleeping comfortably in her mother’s arms. Thanks to UNICEF, the Health centre is equipped with life-saving equipment, and trained doctors and nurses can provide quality services to mothers and children including newborn care. 

mother deliver baby at Gleno CHC
UNICEF Timor-Leste/2018/bsoares
Meeting the new born and the mother at the Health Center, Gleno.

“Nutrition, especially stunting, is a huge challenge for Timor-Leste,” said Karin. “It may require looking at food habits and introducing low-priced high-value local food to diets as a viable option to try.”

Following the example of Scaling Up Nutrition Movement, she also suggested setting up a high-level ministerial team lead by the Prime Minister to ensure coordination among relevant ministries and stakeholders to provide coordination and delivery of nutrition-related services. 

Before returning to Dili, Karin met a group of young journalists in the Ermera Community Radio Centre. Dressed in a local traditional dress, a young journalist, Rosalita (11) and her teammate interviewed Karin. While talking to the journalists, Karin stressed the role of young people in building society, “I think, if we all do our little bit, the community that we live would be a better place to grow up.”
Karin returned to Dili with an overwhelming feeling of hope. This young nation is moving forward meet the challenges of the 21st century. 

interview at comm radio ermera
UNICEF Timor-Leste/2018/bsoares
Rosalita (11), one of the children editorial team members of Community Radio Ermera interviews Karin Hulshof, Regional Director, East Asia and Pacific Region, UNICEF.