Friday, January 15, 2016

“I love it!” – A head start in Timor-Leste

Five year old Roque in Lauana Groto, Timor-Leste.
© UNICEF EAPRO/2015/Nazer
As soon as the teacher tosses the football outside, all the young preschoolers in Lauana Groto village, Timor Leste, rise from their small blue chairs. Just a split second after she utters the word ‘outside’, all the children are on their way, excitedly running to the playground in preparation for the next lesson.

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

Roque and friends play football.
© UNICEF EAPRO/2015/Nazer
Young Roque starts running hard; wherever the football goes, he follows. Dust raises around his small legs as he skirts round 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.
Preschoolers are taught to catch and throw by their teacher.
Playing is an integral part of learning.
© UNICEF EAPRO/2015/Nazer
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.

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 in later life, such as dropping out of school.
Young Domingas learns how to write.
© UNICEF EAPRO/2015/Nazer
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.

After a few seconds she steps back and smiles. She’s done it. The class applauds, and the teacher praises her and she skips back to her chair with mixture of pride and relief on her face.
Roque and classmates in a UNICEF-supported preschool.
© UNICEF EAPRO/2015/Nazer
The first five 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.
Children taking part in class.
© UNICEF EAPRO/2015/Nazer
Preschools like this give children the perfect 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 support the smooth transition of students from pre- to primary school.

UNICEF also supports another 156 preschools with learning materials supported by Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Australian Government (DFAT) and UNICEF.
UNICEF aims to reach every child and ensure a quality education for all, no matter where they are.
© UNICEF EAPRO/2015/Nazer
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 preschool sit besides a newly built primary school.
© UNICEF EAPRO/2015/Nazer
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.
Looking to the future: children who complete preschool
are more likely stay in school through primary and secondary school.
© UNICEF EAPRO/2015/Nazer

By Simon Nazer, UNICEF EAPRO

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