“Education is a path to a better life for children”
To celebrate International Day of Education, held annually on 24 January, we’re highlighting the dedication of Agostinha – a young preschool teacher inspiring young minds in rural East Timor-Leste.
Agostinha prepares her classroom and lessons every morning before the bell rings. She likes to have everything in order for when the room fills with energetic children, eager to learn. With four years of experience teaching at her local preschool in Liquiça, Timor-Leste, Agostinha, 30, says she now understands the importance of early education, “It can lay the foundation for a child’s future success and how they interact with their friends, family and community.”
International Day of Education is an important day for Agostinha – a reminder of how crucial education (including dedicated teachers) is to the wellbeing of children, particularly at a young age. “It’s a special day that emphasises how education is a path to a better life for children and young people no matter their circumstances,” she says. “We celebrate it so that we can encourage and motivate more children to come to school, especially preschools.”
Early education is crucial for children’s futures, as it helps them develop important skills at a young age. Preschool provides an opportunity for children aged three to six to build a strong foundation for life says Agostinha, “They learn how to read and count, as well as what good behaviour looks like.” It also instils in them the values of respect and empathy, which they can carry with them as they grow up and contribute to creating peace in their homes and communities.
Education can be a way out of poverty for children and young people. Yet, globally, 244 million are not in school. There are many barriers that prevent children and young people from going to school, ranging from financial costs to gender inequality and a lack of resources, such as adequate classrooms and learning materials. Agostinha says this rings true for her community in Timor-Leste, “We lack a lot of school materials and the one’s we do have are often damaged. Children use them constantly and over time, so the books, equipment and toys become broken.” Nevertheless, she always finds ways to teach and motivate her students, even with limited resources. “In our training we were taught how to repurpose local materials for lessons,” Agostinha explains. “We’ve used wooden blocks found in the community to teach math.”
Despite the challenges she faces, Agostinha remains dedicated to teaching and works hard to create a welcoming and positive learning environment for students. She says it all begins with setting the tone for the day, “I always greet them with a smile. When children first come to school, especially at the beginning of school year, they might be shy or cry because they aren’t used to being away from home.”
Sometimes they are late for class, but it doesn’t faze Agostinha, “I always appreciate them for coming and encourage them in their studies, so they continue to come to school and enjoy learning new things,” she says.
Rain, hail or shine, Agostinha and her colleagues push themselves to keep teaching. “I decided to participate in ChildFund’s teacher training program because I wanted to help children in my community have a better future,” says Agostinha. “I love watching them grow and learn and discover new skills.”
Agostinha says she looks forward to teaching more children and hopes early education becomes part of every child’s life in her community, “My wish is that preschools continue to receive support from not-for-profit organisations, including teacher training and better facilities, so we can give children a head start in life.”
“I decided to participate in ChildFund’s teacher training program because I wanted to help children in my community have a better future.”