Monday, June 27, 2016

Teaching students, touching many lives to flourish

Teacher Felismina Espirito Santos (35) of Besilau School, Aileu Municipality.
©UNICEF Timor-Leste/2015/negoulart
It is a brisk morning as Felismina Espirito Santos, age 35, walks with several of her cheerful students through coffee plantation fields heading to Besilau School in Aileu. Not only today, this is part of Felismina’s everyday life, except holidays and weekends. She enjoys this walk, as it helps to build relations with student outside class.


She has been in the teaching profession since 2001. Reflecting on her years of experiences, she says, “In my early years of teaching here at Besilau School, it was not an easy job. The school building was ruined by militia gangs after the referendum took place in 1999.


The school had no other teachers at the time.  However I took the initiative to join a movement of young volunteers to help my country develop.  I became a volunteer school teacher so I could help to fill the demand for teachers in my community. I did not know how to be a teacher and did not have training. 


Eskola Foun” Helps to Build Teachers’ Capacity
Felismina smiles confidently as she recounts the turning point in her personal and professional development, the moment she was nominated for the “Eskola Foun” training. “In 2011, my school was chosen to participate in the Eskola Foun (Child Friendly Schools) school leadership and training programme, supported by UNICEF.  It was a key starting point in changing my life as a teacher, as I learned techniques of meaningful engagement of students in their learning.”


School-based training was introduced for the first time at local level for a week.  “It helped me because it was an interactive training experience. Trainers from the national level came to our school; we were able to conduct our normal lessons in the morning for our students and have training sessions in the afternoon,” says Felismina while revisiting her past experiences with enthusiasm.


“Our students’ learning was not interrupted, yet during the same period teachers could benefit from this important training.  The approach helped me to learn how to prepare participatory, child-centred lesson plans which consider basic child rights, using simple hands-on materials to engage students in an age-appropriate manner.”


Felismina would also like to share what she learned in the programme with other teachers from neighbouring sub-districts.


Till to date, 121 schools which is 10 per cent of the total basic education schools in Timor-Leste  participated in the Eskola Foun programme with UNICEF’s support, and over 1,500 education officials received related training. Subsequently in 2014, the CFS principles such as child-centred teaching, improved school management, safe and healthy school environment and active participation of the community through Parent Teacher Association (PTA) were incorporated into the new pre-school and basic education curriculum by the Ministry of Education.


Eskola Foun thus ensures that learning in schools is effective and meaningful for children, which will contribute to the improvement of access, retention, completion and learning achievements of Timorese children.  After three consecutive years of Eskola Foun training in Besilau School, the impact is  substantial. 





Felismina- a role model to her students
Grade Six student Marcelina Nunes Alves, a 14 year-old adolescent, used to be one of Felismina’s students four years ago.  She strongly states the positive influence that Felismina has had on her life, “After the Eskola Foun training, my teacher changed a lot.  She kindly greeted us in the morning and made the learning environment more motivating for us.  We were often singing and happy.  Even though she is not my teacher anymore, she still helps me to learn.” 

Marcelina Nunes Alves (14), grade six of Besilau Primary school is consentrating on learning process.
©UNICEF Timor-Leste/2015/negoulart
Marcelina’s tone becomes more serious as she continues, “I might not have finished school if my teacher did not help me in the past. I was repeating Grade Five because I missed two months of classes during the coffee harvesting season. I was embarrassed to return to school and considered dropping out, but teacher Felismina came to my house and convinced me to return. She is an excellent teacher and role model with a warm heart.  She truly goes beyond her role as a teacher.”


Felismina is happy to support students like Marcelina. Seeing her students grow and develop makes her not only feel content but also proud.


Felismina, like many other teachers befitted from the “Eskola Foun” training programme, which helped to build teachers’ confidence and self-esteem, which ultimately contributes to creating child-friendly environments in their classrooms.


By, Nuno Eugenio Goulart, Education Officer

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