As the school year begins in Timor-Leste, a group of young children in a remote village are excitedly arriving at a new preschool.
Their parents gather around, as the children wash their hands with soapy water before classroom activities begin. This routine has been in place since the school opened in mid- January to keep the coronavirus at bay.
The school, a cheerful green, blue and orange building, was established by the community with the help of ChildFund, which provided training and materials. Inside, collections of books suitable for children between the ages of three and five sit on a shelf, alongside other learning materials and educational toys.
For five-year-old Nanju (pictured above), starting school has been a long-time coming. He is a curious and enthusiastic child, says his father Celestiano, and has been eagerly learning the alphabet at home while schools were closed during the COVID-19 lockdown.
“Nanju is very active,” Celestiano says. “At home he was learning his ABCs and colouring-in.
“He is so happy now that the school is finally open.”
Before the preschool was built, children in the village walked 3km to the nearest preschool, which was in the city. The long walk on a steep and rocky road discouraged many families from enrolling their children in preschool.
Dr Daoni describes PNG’s ongoing battle with TB as a “war”.
ChildFund PNG Health Programs Manager Olive Oa (pictured above) concurs, saying: “We are trying our best to control it. We are advocating at the highest levels and trying to mobilise as many resources as we can, but it’s still there.”