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Rallying for education in Timor-Leste

“My goal is to become a leader of this nation,” says 13-year-old Benditu from Aileu, Timor-Leste. As an avid student in Year 6 at primary school, Benditu is lucky. His parents understand the importance of education – not only for Benditu’s future, but for the future of Timor-Leste.

“My dad and mum want me to go to school. If I do not go to school then they are angry with me,” says Benditu. “They also buy shoes, school books and clothes that I need for school.”

Raising awareness of the importance of education, particularly among parents, is a major challenge in Timor-Leste. Without personal experiences of the transformative power of education – in Aileu district, over 50 per cent of people have no formal education – many parents do not understand the opportunities that going to school can bring to their children. Instead of going to school, many children work alongside their parents to farm, fetch water and collect wood. This is why improving education in Timor-Leste must start with engaging parents to support their children’s education.

As a member of the Timor-Leste Coalition for Education, ChildFund recently participated in Global Action Week. Awareness-raising events were held in Aileu and Ermera districts and attended by hundreds of students, teachers, parents and representatives from government, NGOs, the US embassy and UNICEF. Speeches, marches and music were followed with question and answer sessions between local communities and education specialists.

The focus of this year’s Global Action Week was early childhood care and development (ECCD). ChildFund Timor-Leste is currently supporting 80 ECCD centres, some of which are home-based, across the country. A key focus of the ECCD program is to build the capacity of Parents and Teachers Associations so they can advocate and take pride in their community ECCD centres. Alongside engaged parents and teachers, centres supported by ChildFund are currently preparing over 3,000 Timorese children for a successful future at school.

Events like Global Action Week are vital in influencing community perceptions of the importance of education. As 12-year-old student Derina said: “We are all here at this event so that parents can influence us so that we all go to school. Parents should send their children to school because their children will be the future of this country.”

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