|Teacher Felismina Espirito Santos (35) of Besilau School, Aileu Municipality.|
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.