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A grandmother, a teacher and a young girl are all on a journey to improve literacy levels in the Manatuto Municipality in Timor-Leste. Over the last two years, all three of them have taken part in Library for All, a digital literacy program rolled out in schools across the region.

Library for All is an online library that holds more than 100 culturally relevant books. These stories are written by a selection of local and international authors, with support from the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport.

Since the start of the program, ChildFund Timor-Leste has seen a significant improvement in children’s numeracy, reading and writing skills. ChildFund recently spoke with Maria, Luizinha and Gaspar to learn more about their involvement in the program. This is what they had to say:

Maria

Maria (pictured left), a 62-year-old grandmother, has been the guardian of her two young grandsons ever since their parents moved to the city to find work and support the family. She first heard about the digital library from a teacher at her grandson’s primary school.

“The teachers invited us to a meeting where they talked about the tablets. We were informed that the school has allowed the tablets to be taken home and explained how we, as parents, can support our children at home,” said Maria.

Since having access to the digital tablets and the online library, Maria has seen the boys’ literacy skills improve significantly.

“I have two boys in Grade 2. Before they used the tablet, they always played outside and only came home when it was mealtime. They barely knew the alphabet and only guessed the letters, but after they were allowed to take the tablet home, I noticed changes. They recognise letters, they can count better and can already explain the story through the illustrations they see.”

Maria is happy with the changes she has seen in the boys. “They take turns reading, and I like the tablet because the content is only about the stories and there are no other games, so it is really good for them to learn.”

In the future, Maria is hopeful that the program will continue to allow the students to take home the tablet. “People are thoughtful about our children’s future. That is why they facilitate us with these digital libraries.”

Luizinha

Nine-year-old Luizinha (pictured left) uses the digital library three times a week and is always excited about her reading sessions. “I love reading about octopus, because the books have many beautiful drawings.”

Luizinha is in the second grade at her rimary school in the Manatuto Municipality. Having access to the digital library has improved her literacy and writing skills and she has grown to love reading. When asked about the thing she loves about the digital library she said: “I think it is good because it has a lot of stories.”

When she’s not reading, Luizinha also enjoys studying mathematics, and dreams of a becoming a teacher one day.

Gaspar

Primary school coordinator, Gaspar (pictured below), was thrilled to learn that the digital library program would be coming to his school.

“I felt really happy because this is already a big help to the students and has contributed to their development. Through the tablets, students learn more about the alphabet and they can form sentences better.”

“This is first time we have had a program like this. We have our own library, but there are limited books, and some of them are out of date.” The school has faced limited resourcing in general and often lacks adequate books, tables, chairs, and stationery.

Despite the many setbacks schools have faced since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Gaspar has witnessed first-hand the positive impacts that the program has had on his students. Especially as schools closed and students were forced to continue to learn from home.

“I observe that the students are keen to read by themselves. They can write by themselves through the digital library and can easily use the tablet. I encourage the parents to assist their children read and study at home.”

“I think the stories and drawing are a nice fit for the children’s age. Although I would suggest adding more information on how to form a sentence and short phrases. This would help teachers in teaching their students.”

He has also seen the teachers he works with become more confident in their teaching skills.

“I assigned three teachers to be responsible for the digital library at this school, and I have seen their progress is continuing. They know how to operate the tablet and are more confident in leading group reading sessions.”

Teachers that are implementing this project have improved their digital literacy after training provided to them by ChildFund.  They are better equipped to guide their students through their literacy sessions three times a week.  

“I wish ChildFund team will continue support this program for long term because it will benefit many children.”

Learn more about improving literacy in Timor-Leste.


Ko Htet lives in a small, coastal town in rural Myanmar. He is a clever, happy young boy who is passionate about learning. After two years of being unable to go to school, he now has the opportunity to return to learning through ChildFund Myanmar’s education program.

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, many state schools have closed and the ongoing political unrest has added further disruption to children’s education. This meant that children around the country were forced to learn at home the best they could, with whatever resources they had available to them.

While at home, many children are expected to help their parents in their work and in the home and some children spend their time idly.

“My parents work at the fishery. I have to help my parents’ works. It is also the same for other children in this area – they also have to help their parents’ work,” said Ko Htet.

Although some families could arrange individual tutoring, most could not afford the added expense.

One concerned parent said: “Because of COVID-19 and the political situation, our child had to stop their education and spent most of their time staying home and playing online games. We were unhappy with this situation. Now our child can continue learning with this education program.”

ChildFund worked in consultation with local partners to identify opportunities for children to access an education. The education program opened small informal classrooms across the country so that children could safely return to learning. “Because of no learning for about two years, I’d forgotten many of the lessons I’d learned. I could only just recall the lessons when my teacher now, reminded me,” said Ko Htet.

ChildFund and its partners trained local volunteers to conduct the lessons and run the informal classrooms. These volunteer teachers are trained in teaching numeracy and literacy, and encouraging play. They are bridging the gap in education that children have missed out on these last few years while getting them ready for the new academic year starting in June.

“Since our teacher is very good at teaching, I improved my general knowledge, and could recall about the lessons I’d forgotten. The lessons we are studying now are different to the lessons we learnt before at school. We learn to read, and learn the lessons by playing – I think the lessons we study are better,” said Ko Htet.

With COVID-19 cases still rising across the country in early 2022, disrupting education and limiting access to health care, the informal classes are socially distanced and each child has access to a face mask or shield.

“The teacher also gave us school bags, pencils, exercise books, drawing crayons, erasers, face shield, mask and hand sanitisers. We are also taught through playing and I am so happy to learn in this way.”

ChildFund has been supporting and encouraging children that cannot attend in person, to attend online. But with unreliable electricity and internet connectivity, this has proved to be challenging.

The program supported the volunteer teachers with the skills to support the mental wellbeing of their students. They will be able to support children and young people in their classrooms overcome any psychosocial challenges they face as a result of the prolonged schools closures and COVID-19 lockdowns.

For children like Ko Htet, being able to attend the informal classrooms has been an exciting opportunity and signals a return to normal life. “I’m so happy that I can attend class again.”

As the school academic season has started in June. This program has completed its support in May to more than 1,300 students and 40 teachers from eight different Regions and States.