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Stories: Children, Communities, Futures

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Early childhood education is a pivotal moment in a child’s development. Attending preschool can boost their literacy and numeracy skills, as well as their social skills. They learn to draw, sing, dance and play with their peers.

But unfortunately for some children who live in rural Timor-Leste, distance makes it almost impossible for them to attend preschool. One community, Caicasavou in Liquica is perched on top of a mountain, and can only be accessed through one rocky, rough road.

ChildFund Timor-Leste worked with local partners to establish ten community preschools, in Lautem and Liquica, so that children aged three to five can access early education. One of the new preschools is in Caicasavou. Now, in Timor-Leste attending preschool has become a prerequisite for children to be accepted into Primary school.

Sebastiao, 48-years-old, is the president of a school management committee in Caicasavou. He led the construction of the classrooms and made sure they were ready for use.

“Here we have many children below the age of five and before now there was no preschool. When we heard about the plan to build a preschool here, we worked with the local authorities to construct this building so our children and grandchildren can enroll and study here,” said Sebastião.

Sebastiao also shared that he was happy to have the opportunity to work on the school.

One young teacher, Ronia, is excited about the new preschool. “It is important to have preschool in our village because oftentimes children repeat class because they did not go through preschool.”

When they started building the preschool, ChildFund worked to encourage local parents to be involved so they could learn about the importance of early childhood education. “Parents are more aware of the importance of preschool and now they bring their children to the school,” she said.

Ronia attended training by the Ministry of Education’s National Institute for Training of Teachers and Education Professionals to learn more about lesson planning, class management, leading group activities and other skills to support her in becoming a better teacher.

 As a father, Pedro is happy to have a preschool near his home.

“My son now goes to school here. I don’t mind walking him here every day to come and learn because we finally have a preschool and a teacher that can teach our children,” he said.

Sebastiao is hopeful that the school will benefit children in the future. “I feel happy because this school is now helping more children to attend primary school,” he said.

ChildFund continues to support these communities and school management committees. This project is funded by Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade ANCP and implemented by ChildFund, with support from the Ministry of Education’s National Institute for Training of Teachers and Education Professionals (INFORDEPE) for teacher training.

Three young people are inspiring and leading their peers after taking part in ChildFund Timor-Leste’s Inspiring Youth Changemakers program.

The program brings together youth from diverse backgrounds to learn leadership, economic empowerment and other vital life skills they need to become resilient individuals. It equips young people with the skills and knowledge to manage a variety of social challenges, including domestic violence, young marriage, conflict, unemployment and other issues they face.

Meet Sidalia, Juvêncio, and Brigita, three young people establishing themselves as community leaders.

Sidalia

To a young woman like Sidalia, 23-years-old, this training represents a change.

“I need to make a change for myself and for my family. After I participated in those trainings, I became a stronger woman”.

The most significant change she experienced after the training is that she became more confident in herself.

“Before I attended the training, I was a shy person, I could not even walk through the crowd. But now I feel more confident in public and am brave enough to speak in front of a crowd about issues impacting other youth.”

After the training, she was excited to build on her knowledge of leadership and be able to emulate different leadership styles. She was also able to share what she learnt with her peers in her village.

“When I shared information about leadership with other youth in my village, they were excited to listen. They received the information very positively and as the facilitator, this made me very happy.”

Juvêncio

Juvêncio, 25-years-old, believes that the youth changemaker program is helping to prepare young people for the future.

“Other youth should participate in the training because it will increase their resilience to any challenges they might face in the future.”

Like Sidalia, Juvêncio valued the leadership training. He said that he now has a clearer idea of what makes a good leader and how he can use these skills in his own life.

“Before the training I didn’t know the difference between a leader and leadership, but after training I know the definition for both those things. I know how I can be a good leader for my community.”

Brigita

Brigita, a 17-year-old is a high school student, shared that the training motivated her to seek higher levels of education and has had many positive impacts on her life. She strongly encourages other young girls in her village to take advantage of this opportunity.

“I should not miss out on any opportunity to learn just because I am a woman. Women and girls should take part in the training. Just because we are women does not mean we don’t have power. As women we need to take these opportunities in front of us to become more empowered.”

The Youth Changemakers project is supported by ChildFund New Zealand and implemented in Lautem municipality by ChildFund Timor-Leste and local partner, Ba Futuru.