Friday, December 15, 2017

A bridge to new opportunities: Timor-Leste youth celebrate landmark UNICEF report on the digital world

Marked the official launch of the State of the World Children’s Report 2017
by beating the drum by the dignitaries as part of the Timorese tradition.
Snapshot: For students in Timor-Leste, access to the internet bridges the gap when their education and knowledge falls short. Inequality, access and online safety were identified as key priorities in UNICEF’s The State of the World’s Children 2017: Children in a digital world report, launched on 13 December 2017. Hear how internet access is affecting children and young people in Timor-Leste now.

At the beating of the drum that marked the official launch of UNICEF’s new The State of the World’s Children report launch in Timor-Leste, a crowd of smartphones reached high above the crowd, arms outstretched and straining to get the best angle, flashes popping over the heads of the hunched scrum of official media. Before the event finished these images would flood Facebook, attracting hundreds of likes, reactions, and appreciative comments.

It’s unsurprising in a country with an estimated 400,000 active Facebook users, according to Facebook’s 2016 user data – around a third of the tiny island nation’s population.

But the new report, launched jointly by UNICEF, Timor-Leste’s Secretariat of State for Council of Ministers and Social Communication and the national university Universidade National Timor Lorosa’e (UNTL) in Dili, the nation’s capital, highlights the growing digital divide between users in high and low-income countries, and explores the impact of the internet on children’s safety and wellbeing.

The launch was attended by Matias Freitas Boavida, Secretary of State for Council of Ministers and Social Communication; Nivio Leite Magalhães, Secretary of State for Youth and Employment; Professor Francisco Miguel Martins, the Rector of UNTL, and Dili school student Izaura da Silva Pinto.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

“Do you have a plan?” Staff’s children take over their parents’ roles in UNICEF Timor-Leste Office on World Children’s Day

Marli (9) is acting as Deputy Representative of UNICEF Timor-Leste
on the conference call about presentations and working style
as part of the ‘children take over’ event on World’s Children’s Day, 20 November 2017 in Dili.
© UNICEF Timor-Leste/2017/bsoares
The Deputy Representative of UNICEF’s Timor-Leste office is concentrating on the multi-country conference call, she’s leading on presentations and working styles. She opens her mouth to answer a question about the working archetype of academic Albert Einstein, but before she can answer, her eight-year-old brother interrupts.

“He’s emotional, definitely,” he says, confidently.

“No way, he’s Albert Einstein,” she returns. Then, to the screen. “He’s a thinker.”

“I agree,” replies a voice from a tiny box in the computer.

The deputy adjusts her lime-green cap and nods into the screen.

“How old are you, Marli?” the voice asks mildly. 

“Ten,” the Deputy replies.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Local government leaders pledge to work with communities on pre-school education

Amos Goncalves (Middle) preschool student from Tai-Ubu Suco Lasaun,
“ I love to come to school because in the school I learn many things,
we dance, we sing, painting and learning ABC (Alphabet)”.
@UNICEF Timor-Leste/2017/bsoares
Ermera Municipal Authority officials and Suco (village) Chiefs have pledged to work closely with communities and the Ministry of Education to support community pre-schools in their areas.

The Ermera Municipal Authority and the Ministry of Education with the support of UNICEF brought together Suco Chiefs and officials from the municipality to discuss how communities can support the early learning of children. The meeting, a first on this topic was aimed at raising the awareness of Ermera Suco leaders on the Early Childhood Development (ECD) and the importance of pre-school education for children. The village chiefs, who were elected in October 2016, play a key role in deciding priority projects for their communities and mobilizing community members to take action on specific issues.

“When we build a house, the foundation should be strong. The same with children. If they learn early and help them to stimulate their brains by engaging with them for various activities, then they will have a good foundation for learning. They can better adapt and absorb many ideas when they grow up,” Jose Martinho Dos Santos Suares, President Ermera Municipal Authority said in his opening speech.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

UNICEF joins celebration to promote handwashing with soap

Students of the Basic Education School No. 5 Comoro
participating in the Global Handwashing Day event
organized by the Ministers of Health and Education with the support of UNICEF.
©UNICEF Timor-Leste/2017/dmonemnasi
The excitement of students at the Basic Education School No. 5 Comoro as they waited for the start of the Global Handwashing Day event was palpable. Many children ran around the yard, smiling and waving their Global Handwashing Day flags. Others excitedly practiced their skits and presentations.

Global Handwashing Day has been celebrated in Timor-Leste since 2014. This year’s event was filled with enthusiastic singing, skits and presentations with lots of handwashing from children and leaders alike. UNICEF Representative Valérie Taton joined First Lady Cidália Lopes Nobre Mouzinho Guterres and representatives from the Ministries of Education and Health joined the event, organized with the support of UNICEF and other development partners.

This year’s theme, “Our hands, Our future,” emphasizes the impact that handwashing can have not just on individuals but also on communities. Handwashing is an affordable and effective solution to poor health outcomes and has the power to improve access to education for children, protect the health of patients and communities, and reduce inequities.

“Our health is in our hands, as well as our future” declared one student from School No. 5 Comoro during the event. In a short play during the event, students emphasized what could happen to children if they don’t wash their hands with soap after playing, after using the toilet and at other crucial times.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Communities make children’s early learning possible in Timor-Leste

© UNICEF Timor-Leste/2016/BSoares
Students enjoying their school in Timor-Leste

With few public pre-schools in Timor-Leste, many children, particularly those in rural areas, miss out on the opportunity of early learning. UNICEF is working with the Ministry of Education, Village Councils and parents to set up community pre-schools to help children get the best start in life.

By Leotes Lugo Helin, Chief of Education, UNICEF Timor-Leste

VIQUEQUE, Timor-Leste, 25 September 2017 – “Ida, rua, tolu, hat, lima, nen, hitu, walu. Se mak badinas ba eskola buka matenek to’o hetan. Haksolok ba, haksolok ba, hader dader saan ba eskola” (One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight. We love to go to school to get knowledge. Be happy, be happy. Wake up in the morning to go to school).
Luzeria Ornai, 3, sings the ba eskola (Going to school) song along with other children her age at a community pre-school in Ossu, one of 59 in the Viqueque Municipality that is supported by UNICEF.

© UNICEF Timor-Leste/2017/LHelin
Luzeria Ornai (first child on the left) and her classmates at the UNICEF-supported community pre-school

A school on the doorstep

Without the community pre-school, Luzeria would not have the opportunity of early learning as the nearest public pre-school is about three kilometers away.

With limited public transport, children in Luzeria’s community had to wait until they were old enough to walk to the nearest primary school, skipping pre-school. This makes them prone to repeat the first grade – around 24 per cent of them, according to 2016 data from the Ministry of Education.

“I’m really happy that now we have a pre-school close to our homes. As a community we can look after our children,” says Manuel Ruas one of the members of the aldeai (village) council and a member of the community pre-school School Management Committee (SMC). “The children are very happy. They don’t have to walk far to be able to go to pre-school.”

Two of Manuel’s grandchildren are attending the pre-school. “As a SMC member, I also help look after the children. I supervise that everything is going well with the pre-school and the facilitators,” he says, proud of his contribution to the education of the young children in his village.

© UNICEF Timor-Leste/2017/LHelin
Manuel Ruas is a member of the School Management Committee and Village Council is supporting the community pre-school in his village

Preparing for the future
Luzeria’s mother, Angelica Ornai, 27, is also happy that Luzeria and her brother Dionildo, 5, now have a chance to attend pre-school. 
“I come here every day [there is a class] and help look after the children. We, parents, sometimes contribute $0.25 for the snacks of children or for other materials for the pre-school,” she says.
Angelica and parents like her in the community see how such an organized early learning programme can help prepare their children for formal schooling.
“Here in the pre-school they learn how to recognize letters and count. They sing a lot of songs and interact with other children,” Angelica says, adding that this helps children prepare for Grade 1. She is confident that her children will do well once they go to primary school.
Giving children like Luzeria and Dionildo a pre-school experience provides a stimulating environment that supports their brain development. When children play, they’re learning skills that will equip them for all of life’s challenges, like how to solve problems or why it’s important to share, and other social skills that will help them navigate our complex world.
Evidence indicates quality pre-school education is a sound investment and ensures children get the best start in life.

© UNICEF Timor-Leste/2017/LHelin
Students participate in the community based pre-school
Reaching children in remote areas

Establishing the community pre-schools is part of UNICEF’s support to the Ministry of Education of Timor-Leste to innovate and reach children in remote parts of the country. 

According to the 2015 census, 72 per cent of the population live in rural areas. There are few public pre-schools and those that exist are mostly concentrated in urban areas or municipal capitals. Pre-school enrolment stood at around 16.9 per cent in 2016 for the whole country, one of the lowest in Southeast Asia.

Currently being modelled in two of Timor-Leste's 13 municipalities, this is the first time community pre-schools are being implemented at scale in the country. UNICEF also supports parenting education sessions for parents of children attending the community pre-schools.
Community driven

A cornerstone of the UNICEF-supported pre-schools is community ownership that is ensured through a consultative process before establishing the pre-school.

The School Management Committee (SMC) consists of two to three members from the community, working together with the community pre-school facilitators to ensure that classes take place. They are identified by the community members and are volunteers. SMC members are also often among the leaders from the community, either the Village Chief or a member of the Village Council like Manuel.

UNICEF with the support of its partners, the New Zealand government, H&M Foundation and Morgan Foundation, provides trainings to the facilitators and supply learning materials to the community pre-schools. Facilitators also use locally available materials to create toys and learning materials for the children. 
With the active engagement of these volunteer facilitators, parents and community leaders, children like Luzeria and her brother Dionildo will continue to get an opportunity for a brighter future through pre-school education.


Tuesday, August 29, 2017

“Recipes for Healthy Meals”: A recipe book to combat undernutrition

With eye-catching beautiful photography, delicious recipes containing locally available ingredients and an inspiring presentation, the “Recipes for Healthy Meals” book is now available in Timor-Leste. The book covers types of food and information that families need for ensuring nutrition of children and family members. Written in Tetum (local language), the book presents 31 delicious and healthy recipes of nutritious food for infants, young children, pregnant and breastfeeding women and other family members.

Franzelina dos Reis happily showing banana pumpkin mash after cooking. 
©UNICEF Timor-Leste/2017/ahelin
 The book is a result of an effort of mothers and Mother Support Group members who came together and contributed by bringing their knowledge and experiences together. It also explains the techniques of ensuring hygiene practices while cooking and serving food as well as nutritious value of each food item with illustration.

As part of the demonstration of recipes, Mother Support Group members participated in a cooking event in Dari, a suburb area of Dili, the capital of Timor Leste.

“I am so happy to take part in this activity. It’s a learning opportunity for me; I’ve learned how to prepare various nutritious meals. I learned a new recipe on how to make a banana and pumpkin mashed for baby. These food are very healthy and yummy; I’ll prepare this food for my children at home,” said Franzelina dos Reis (32), who was one of the participants participated in the cooking demonstration session.

Adao de Jesus proudly showing “Na’an Ho ForTali”-  that he cooked. 
©UNICEF Timor-Leste/2017/ahelin
 Adao de Jesus (26), a Mother Support Group member also contributed by providing his recipe “Na’an Ho Fore-Tali”- a delicious mixed of vegetables and meat- for children aged 2 to 5 years, and also for adult. According to Adão, every one of his family including children love this food.  

“Developing a food recipe book for children, mothers and families is a great initiative as community involved themselves in producing the recipe by using variety of local foods,” said Ana Maria Guterres, Health Promotion Officer of the Ministry of Health. “I also learned some new recipes and already cooked for my children. My children love ‘fish with porridge’ and ask to have it every day,” Ana continued.

The engagement of the Mother Support Group in preparing and developing the recipe book was instrumental in ensuring community participation and ownership.

Lack of information and common traditional practices often act as major factors in food preparation practices at the household level in Timor-Leste. According to the Timor-Leste Food and Nutrition Survey 2013, only 1 in 5 children 6-23 months are receiving the recommended minimum acceptable diet, though majority of its population (61.3%) had an acceptable Food Consumption Score (TLFNS, 2013).

The recipe book provides the much needed age specific information and presents various recipes which will enable parents and families to prepare nutritious food with low cost and locally available ingredients in the community.

Mother Support Group members are proudly using the Recipe book for cooking in various events.  
  ©UNICEF Timor-Leste/2017/lfonseca
Developed under the partnership of the Ministry of Health, European Union and UNICEF Integrated Nutrition Project, the book provides guidance to mothers and families. The Primary Health Care Staff and Mother Support Groups will also use the recipe book to do cooking demonstrations in communities across the country. This book will act as a tool to promote healthy cooking practices.

-      By Veronica Correia , Communication for  Development Officer (Nutrition/Sanitation)
UNICEF Timor-Leste