|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
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.