Breaking new ground in Timor Leste
June 1 2015 was a red letter day for our sisters in Timor Leste and families of the Gari-uai community!
After years of careful planning with the local community, Government Leaders, Bishops and the Australian and South East Asian Province the first Loreto Pre-Primary School was opened in the remote area of Gari-uai in Timor Leste.
Over the past decade, the newly independent country has travelled down the path of reconciliation as part of the healing process trying to recover from its violent history. More than 58% of the population is illiterate and with so many young children in need of education the school system is severely under resourced particularly in isolated regions.
The Loreto Sisters are committed to addressing the lack of educational opportunities facing the Timorese people in Gari-uai which is so isolated that food and water has to be trucked in on a dusty road.
Building of the pre-school is just one of three visions the Loreto Sisters have, with construction set to commence on the first Loreto Primary School to be opened in 2016 followed by a Secondary School.
What makes this pre-school even more special is that among those eager and ready to teach around 45 young students are two local Timorese women Jovita Freitas Ximenes and Sonia da Silva Belo who have recently returned from Australia where they received extra training.
Following their graduation in February 2015 as two of the top students at the Catholic Teachers’ College in Baucau they were asked by the Loreto Sisters if they would teach at the Loreto Pre-School. They were offered extra training in Australia which meant embarking upon their first overseas trip! Accompanied by Sr Diaan Stuart who lives in Timor Leste with 3 other Loreto Sisters, the trio boarded the plane bound for Brisbane.
The Director of Catholic education in Brisbane, Ms Pam Betts, organised for Jovita and Sonia to spend time at St Agnes Primary School at Mt Gravatt observing and learning other methodologies and behaviour. The principal and staff of St Agnes were most generous in their support of and assistance given to the Timorese teachers.
With the opening of the Pre-Primary school they have the opportunity to put into practice some of the skills that they observed in Brisbane. The arrangement of their classrooms reflects the student-centred methodology that they saw at St Agnes School and as the year progresses so will their confidence.
Brisbane is not the end of their learning as in the future we hope that teachers from our Loreto primary schools and from the Catholic education in Brisbane will visit to provide further training and in-service. One of the Gari-uai parents, who has been a great supporter of the project from the beginning, keeps saying that we must provide quality education and with assistance from our circle of friends, this will be possible.
Together we can assist the Loreto Sisters and the community of Gari-uai to sustain and complete the building of these much needed schools. If you would like to contribute to the development of these projects please visit our Mary Ward International Australia website.