Monday, May 30, 2016

In Timor-Leste’s remote communities, parents and children learn together

Olympia Carvalho had always wanted to send her eldest children to preschool, but the classes were too far and too expensive. Now, thanks to a new alternative preschool and parenting education programme in her rural community, both she and her children will get a chance to learn.
Olympia Carvalho with her three children at her house in the remote village of Matahoi.
She has been attending parenting education classes
while her children attend the alternative preschool in their community.
©UNICEF Timor-Leste/2016/gmdasilva
MATAHOI, Timor-Leste, 23 May 2016 – At the stroke of 8 a.m., a ringing bell echoes through the remote village of Matahoi in Timor-Leste’s Viqueque municipality. As the sound fades, Olympia Carvalho, a 26-year-old mother of three, makes her way to the village centre in this small agricultural community, which is located 170 kilometres east of the country’s capital, Dili.

The bell indicates the start of another parenting education session for Ms. Carvalho, but it also signals a new beginning for her children. This is because while she attends the parenting session, her two eldest children, Atanazio, 5, and Izaias, 3, attend the newly-established alternative preschool.

A community supported alternative
The alternative preschool programme is an informal learning session for children aged 3 to 5 who have no access to formal preschool. It follows the Ministry of Education’s curriculum and is facilitated by trained community volunteers.

“I am very pleased to have the alternative preschool here,” Ms. Carvalho says. “Now my kids can go to a school in their own community. I always wanted my eldest son to attend preschool when he turned 3, but I could not afford to send him, and it is located very far, around two hours walk from our home.”

The preschool class is held three times a week, and it has been running in the community for about three months. Ms. Carvalho says that both she and her children have already learned a lot. “I make sure that they attend regularly, and most of the time I also accompany them. I've learned many good ideas from the teacher, such as learning through playing, which I apply with my children at home,” she says.

Teresa Fernandes is a housewife and a trained community volunteer who is giving her time in the interest of the children in her village. With UNICEF support, Ms. Fernandes received training on facilitation skills, classroom management and lesson planning using the new school curriculum. Each volunteer also receives essential learning materials.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Aida’s story: “I like to learn. I want to know more for my future”

Aida Mesquita, 14, leaves for school. Aida is in the fifth grade
at Sarlala Basic Education Filial (satellite) School,
a UNICEF-supported Child Friendly School in Aileu Municipality.
 Timor-Leste. @UNICEF Timor-Leste/2015/klynch
When she was just five years old, Aida Mesquita followed her older siblings to their local school and started the first grade. “It was really noisy,” she remembers, “there were two grades in a single classroom and it was crowded, so it was hard to concentrate.” The teacher stood in front of the rows of desks and talked. “If we didn’t pay attention, the teachers would punish us. It made me scared to be at school.”

At the end of the year, Aida dropped out. Like more than 70 per cent of students in Timor-Leste who complete grade one, she could not read a single word.

Two years later, with a push from the teachers and her parents, Aida, then eight years old, returned to school to repeat the first grade. She found that things had changed. UNICEF had supported the Ministry of Education to train her teachers in the ‘Eskola Foun’, or Child Friendly Schools approach.

“The method of teaching was different,” she says, “and every grade had its own classroom so it was easier to learn. There were also more activities and the teachers explained things to us in a way that I could understand.”

Born in 2002, the same year her country was officially recognized as Asia’s newest nation, Aida’s story is all too common. Even today, only 54 per cent of students in Timor-Leste enter grade one at the correct age—some enter too young, and some too old. A few, like Aida, do both. And while drop out rates have decreased significantly, repetition rates, especially in the early grades, are still very high: almost 30 per cent of students in grade one do repeat the first year of school.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Jose do Carmo Pinto: A LSBE trainer changed youth lives in Timor-Leste

Jose do Carmo Pinto (50), a passionate life skills based education trainer explained
how LSBE programme changed life of youths in Timor-Leste.

“I have dedicated most of my time working with adolescents and youths, assisted them to learn about life and their inner strength. I feel proud to be a part of UNICEF’s Life skills Based Education Programme as it helps many adolescents and youths to change their lives,” said Jose do Carmo Pinto (50), a well-respected Life Skills Based Education (LSBE) trainer in Timor-Leste.

His passion is working with youths, “What one could expect when you can use your passion for the good of the people,” said Jose, while talking about his achievement in life and LSBE training. 
A self- trained sculptor by profession, Jose spent his last ten years as an LSBE Coordinator of Baucau municipality (district) of Timor-Leste.

He worked with thousands of youths and adolescents, travelled all the districts of Timor-Leste and helped thousands of promising youths to flourish and grow. Many of them are now working in different sectors, some of them have established as a successful entrepreneur and few others went abroad to pursue higher education.

“He is a committed LSBE trainer.  Many young people are working in his workshop as apprentices. He ensures life skills training for all of them before they start work as a compulsory requirement,” said Sandra Gusmao, Education Specialist of UNICEF Timor-Leste, who was leading the LSBE programme in 2003 when UNICEF started supporting it and selected Jose as a trainee for the first batch of LSBE trainers. 

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Clean water in Timor-Leste: a collective effort

Claudio Soares, 65, stands outside his traditional home in Timor-Leste with his wife, children and grandchildren. “We all live in here, all seven of us,” says the chief of Saramata village, showing us the one room they all share. “We don’t have much but we are happy. And we now have water close to home.”

Claudio Soares, 65, stands outside his traditional home in Timor-Leste with his wife, children and grandchildren. Photo: UNICEF Timor-Leste/2015/Simon Nazer

 His big smile opens up – he is proud of what his village is achieving. “I am also chief of the water management group in the village. I maybe not that smart but the people here trust me on how to lead them and help everyone work together.”

Saramata village now has a year-round water supply, with safe water running through five taps as well as to the nearby school. Many similar villages in Timor-Leste still lack access to safe drinking water, as well as poor access to sanitation facilities.

“With UNICEF’s help, the water came after were declared open defecation free,” says Claudio, now sitting with the other members of the water management group. “We knew it was important to have water to keep clean. All the families contributed local materials and labour, depending on their situations. We all contributed in some way.”

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Multiple Micronutrient Powders helping parents to improve the overall quality of young children’s diet

Eight month old Nilton receives micronutrient powder from CHC.
@UNICEF Timor-Leste/2016/Mpgoncalves
Natalia and Fernando Salsinha are the proud parents of five children, two boys and three girls. Fernando is a farmer, who together with his wife Natalia lives in a small house in Kamalpu Aldeia, in Railaku Administrative post of Ermera District, along with Natalia’s mother and youngest sister. A total of nine people are living in the household.

Their son, Nilton is eight months old and the youngest of the five children.  He is still within what is referred to as the window of golden opportunity, the so called “First 1000 Days”. This time period from pregnancy until 24 months is the most important time for a child to be well nourished in order to stave off stunting and grow and develop to his/her full potential.

Therefore at this age, it is particularly important for Nilton to receive the right nutrition, a mix of continued breastfeeding along with receiving appropriate local and diverse nutritious food.