Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Investing in a new generation of leaders in Timor-Leste

Vilma Gloria Espirito Santo, a 12-year-old Grade 8 student of Soro Basic Education School
in Ainaro Municipality was elected as president of the school’s Student Council.
UNICEF is supporting the Ministry of Education re-establish
Student Councils in Timor-Leste’s schools.
©UNICEF Timor-Leste/2017/bsoares
Ainaro Municipality - The newly-elected committee president sits patiently as she waits for her colleagues to join her. She’s wearing a crisp, pressed white blouse, and her long hair is neatly clipped back from her face, which breaks into a professional smile as her colleagues sit down.
“So we have a problem,” she announces. “Last year, we planted flowers at the school, but the animals got in and ate then. We need a fence.”


Her colleagues nod in agreement, and the president makes a note to request funding for construction. She immediately clips along to her next agenda item and as she speaks, swings skinny ankles above the ground where she sits, perched high on a chair. She wouldn’t be more than four feet tall, but that’s normal for a 12-year-old.


Vilma Gloria Espirito Santo is an eighth grade student at Soro Basic Education School in Soro village in Timor-Leste’s mountainous Ainaro municipality. In a mock election held as part of a UNICEF-supported training session, she was elected the president of her school’s new student council.



Participating in democracy


Student Councils are an initiative of Timor-Leste’s Ministry of Education and Culture, supported by UNICEF Timor-Leste. It aims to support the country’s future leaders with citizenship education.


Student councils provide opportunities for students to participate in elections and democratic processes, organise and manage school activities, and to work closely with teachers and with other students, giving them opportunities to practice communicating, decision-making, leadership, and to take a more active role in school life. 

It’s a novel concept for Timor-Leste. Previously, children were seen as passive learners, only following instructions of the teachers. But now, teachers and school leaders are working together to create an environment for students to find their voices.


Students taking the lead


Alexio de Jesus has been the director of EBC Soro since 2014, and has worked as a teacher since 2000. He’s quick to clarify that students are the ones who drive the committees; not teachers.


“The activities are students’ activities, not teachers’ activities, so students should be in charge,” he says. “With the Student Council, the students can arrange and manage their own activities and promote things like good hygiene and health in the school. It gives them an opportunity to learn public speaking skills, to be managers, and to take responsibility.”


Alexio highlights the student-run committees offered under the student council structure as an opportunity for EBC Soro. What kind of groups will be established at the school?
Alexio grins; looks up. “That’s not up to me. That depends on the students.”


Their first taste of democratic participation


All students are part of their school’s committee, and may choose to run in an election and take a committee leadership role. On a rainy Saturday afternoon in a remote school two hours’ bumpy drive away from Soro village, young facilitators are enthusiastically running a training session, showing attentive kids how to run their own election at Hatu-Udo Basic Education School. They’ve never seen something like this before.


A tiny girl marks tally lines on the board as votes are counted in as part of the Student Council election – hesitantly, at first, glancing towards the facilitator, and then quickly, efficiently as the lines grow and the watching students start calling out numbers; pointing at the board from the back of the room.


Peer-to-peer learning


Bebiona Soares is a 21-year-old engineering student acting as a facilitator. She found out about the student council programme through her involvement in Timor-Leste’s Youth Parliament, and praises UNICEF for trusting young people to support the implementation of the programmes for young students.


“This is the first phase of learning,” she says of the training session, which aims to socialise the election concept in the school and encourage students to run for election. “They don’t learn these skills in school. They can’t speak in public; they’re shy and confused; they can’t express ideas.”


But by the end of the programme, they’ll realise what they’re capable of, Bebiona says, and know their ability to lead.  What they’re doing, she says, is preparing themselves for acting as the leaders of their tiny half-island nation – the first new democracy of the 21st century.
Students at Hatu-Udo Basic Education School in Ainaro Municipality cast their votes
as part of the elections for the Student Council.
UNICEF is supporting the Ministry of Education re-establish Student Councils
in Timor-Leste’s schools. ©UNICEF Timor-Leste/2017/bsoares
Future leaders


In Soro, Student Council president Vilma pushes a pigtail behind her shoulder as she answers a cursory question about her goals for the future. “I want to replace you,” she matter-of-factly tells Vicente Lopes, UNICEF Timor-Leste’s education officer.
They exchange a grin, and he praises her motivation.


But before that, she has her council to conquer.


“Students must go first to show an example,” she says earnestly. “Without a leader, nothing will happen. With leaders, people will follow. It’s important to have students lead the activities.”


Somehow it feels like it won’t just be the students at Soro Basic Education School following Vilma into the future.


By Sophie Raynor, UNICEF Timor-Leste Consultant

2 comments:

  1. Selamu alaikum wr.wb.. Salam sejahterah untuk kita semua... perkenalkan nama saya ABDUL ROCHMAN Alamat. Desa sukowilangun Kec. Kalipare Kab. Malang. duluh kerja di taiwan sebagai TKI selama 3 thn, saya berterima kasih banyak kpd teman saya yg ada di singapura..! Berkat postingan dia disalah satu webs yg saya baca, saya bisa kenal namanya MBAH DUIHANTORO guru spiritual pesugihan uang gaip dan nomor togel 4D/6D... pikir-pikir kurang lebih 2 thn kerja jd TKI di taiwan hanya jeritan batin dan tetes air mata ini selalu mengharap tapi tdk ada hasil sama sekali, mana lagi dapat majikan galak. Salah sedikit kena marah lagi,, tiap bulan dapat gaji hanya separoh saja. Itupun tidak cukup untuk biaya keluarga di kampung, tp saya beranikan diri tlp nomor MBAH DUIHANTORO di nomor 0852 9846 3149. Untuk minta bantuannya melalui DANA GHAIP nya. Syukur alhamdulillah benar-benar terbukti sekarang. Terima kasih ya allah atas semua rejeki mu ini, saya sudah bisa pulang ke kampung halaman buka usaha skrg. Jika teman minat butuh bantuan MBAH DUIHANTORO silahkan hubungi sekarang demi alloh ini.
    https://pesugihangaibnyata77.blogspot.com/?m=1

    ReplyDelete