Timor Leste – rising!

I have just received an email from Jorge, my translator when I started working in Timor Leste (East Timor), who then transformed himself into an excellent trainer. He writes:

I have just returned from Lequidoe sub district (Aileu),  the first place where the 100 Friendly Schools project was piloted. I found no more signs of the 1999 destruction with roofless houses and burnt out schools . I met a healthy young generation with happy faces, motivated, better educated who seem ambitious to take over development from the older people in this particular area.
They enjoy electricity in their villages, own motorbikes and trucks, new buildings, new facilities, new dresses, new and qualified teachers and much more…..
A reminder of what 1999 was like..
“Militia set fire to my house on September 1999. I evacuated to Atambua with my parents. We lived in a refugee camp in Soskoe with many other people. I went back to East Timor with my mother”.
Junito Emilio Soares, “Through the eyes of the Children”- UNICEF.
and the hope for the future:

We believe , the young people who have defended this country have the strength and ability for this very important task. With love and devotion we will succeed in rebuilding our nation from ashes and create a better future that is full of peace, freedom,democracy and justice”.

Joanita Moreira da Silva, “Through the eyes of the children”.UNICEF.

Although it has taken more than 14 years to reach this point, we are all hoping that some stability in the country will provide the economic development that can unite the different factions and maintain the progress outlined by Jorge.
Click on p.10 to get some idea of how the schools looked after the militia had stolen everything and then set fire to the schools to ensure the new nation started with nothing but their determination.
This page is from the 100 Schools Booklet ( designed by Shakun Harris and published by UNICEF) and other pages illustrate the re-building of the education system. Most teachers had left the country (they were Indonesian) and so volunteers came ‘from the rice fields into the classroom’  and were enthusuastic learners.
Our first workshops together produced a wealth of learning aids (from whatever we could find, whether it was an old flip flop to a local adhesive that is found in a tree) and enthusiastic new teachers. Jorge came into his own when he offered to run a session at a workshop and was so well prepared and capable that there was no doubting his future as a trainer.
You can see Jorge at the bottom of page 14
Timor Leste continues to rise……

World Science Day for Peace and Development -10th November 2012

World Science Day for Peace and Development -10th November 2012
From my experience, school science is still poorly taught in many countries. Some of this is down to poor or little training for teachers, particularly at primary level where attitudes towards science are going to be developed.
The second reason may be due to a lack of importance in Teacher Education for science particularly for primary and thirdly a lack of resources, as some will think that you can only teach science in a laboratory.
I remember working in Timor Leste, where the teachers had no training and had absolutely no resources, but by the time they were given just a few days of training with the emphasis on using local , no cost or low cost materials, their classrooms were crammed full of exciting science experiments and visual aids.
So science can be well taught giving rise to  attitudes that will protect their health as well as contribute to community development, which in turn can ensure peace.
So it is worth focusing on the positive attitudes to science and science learning for at least one day and then follow up for the rest of the year.
“2012 must be a turning point towards green societies, built on the inclusive and equitable development of science to the benefit of all. This is our message for the 2011 World Science Day for Peace and Development.”

Message from Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO
on the occasion of the World Science Day for Peace and Development
10 November 2011

Proclaimed by the UNESCO General Conference (Resolution 31C/ 20) in 2001, the World Science Day for Peace and Development is an annual event celebrated all over the world to recall the commitment made at the UNESCO-ICSU World Conference on Science (Budapest 1999).

The purpose of the World Science Day for Peace and Development is to renew the national, as well as the international commitment to science for peace and development and to stress the responsible use of science for the benefit of society. The World Science Day for Peace and Development also aims at raising public awareness of the importance of science and to bridge the gap between science and societies.

Science for global sustainability: interconnectedness, collaboration, transformation: such is the theme of this year’s edition of World Science Day for Peace and Development, which UNESCO is celebrating around the world on 10 November.

This theme provides an opportunity to shine the spotlight on the role that science, technology and innovation (STI) – and related national, regional and international policies – play in promoting global sustainability and peace.

World Science Day also offers an opportunity to follow up the Rio+20 outcomes, based on the recommendations in the report of the United Nations Secretary-General’s High-Level Panel on Global Sustainability, entitled Resilient People, Resilient Planet: a future Worth Choosing.

International Week of Science and Peace

The International Week of Science and Peace was first observed during 1986 as part of the observance of the International Year of Peace. The organization of events and activities for the week was undertaken as a non-governmental initiative; the secretariat for the International Year of Peace was informed of the preparatory activities and the final summary of events that occurred during the week. The organizers sought to encourage the broadest possible international participation in the observance.

Based on the success of the 1986 observance, the organizers continued their efforts in successive years. In recognition of the value of the annual observance, the General Assembly adopted resolution 43/61 in December 1988, which proclaims the “International Week of Science and Peace”, to take place each year during the week in which 11 November falls. The General Assembly urged Member States and intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations to encourage relevant institutions, associations and individuals to sponsor events and activities related to the study and dissemination of information on the links between progress in science and technology and maintenance of peace and security; urged Member States to promote international co-operation among scientists and required the Secretary-General to report to the General Assembly as its forty-fifth session on the activities and initiatives of Member States and interested organizations in connection with the week.

The annual observance of the International Week of Science and Peace is making an important contribution to the promotion of peace. The Week encourages greater academic exchanges on a subject of universal importance while also generating greater awareness of the relationship of science and peace among the general public. Based on observances of Science and Peace Week to date, it may be expected that participation each year will increase, contributing to greater international understanding and opportunities for co-operation in the applications of science for the promotion of peace throughout the year.

Teachers in Timor-Leste

I have written about teachers and students in Timor Leste before, so was pleased to find the article below, in relation to World Teachers’ Day.
When I started working in Timor Leste- the schools were just burnt out shells and there were no trained teachers.
Many new teachers were growing rice one day and recruited as teachers the next.

Teachers in Timor-Leste – the Bridge to the Future

World Bank   SUBMITTED BY JOAO DOS SANTOS ON THU, 2012-10-04 12:54

My gratitude and appreciation to all the teachers around the world for the wonderful work they do in contributing to education and development, in particular teachers who serve in Timor-Leste.

Your worth has been recognized internationally since 1994 – today is your day, World Teachers’ Day on October 5th.

Recently while visiting a few schools in Aileu, Ainaro and Liquica, I spoke to teachers, students and parents in villages about the profound difference teachers were making.

Fatima Cardoso, a 28 year old mother with seven children, lives in the high mountains of Aitutu village, Ainaro District about 84 kilometers from the capital Dili. Five of her children are now studying at school, She explained:

“Teachers are just like a bridge to help students pass to their future. I really appreciate the role of teachers. They help guide our children in the right direction. As parents we want something different for our children, we want our children to have a better education.”

“We are lucky because the school is very close school with very dedicated teachers working there, some have to spend hours on foot to reach the school to teach the students.”

Teachers like these are the backbone of education in Timor-Leste and the significant gains achieved during the last decade. Now 90 percent of primary aged children are enrolled in school and more children are staying in school, with three quarters completing all primary grades in 2010. More Timorese are able to read and write, with literacy rates among 15-24 year olds increasing by 70 percent between 2001 and 2007.

Teachers are playing a vital role to respond to the needs of children, the hope of thousands of parents and the dreams of government for a better development, as it is constituted in the National Strategic Development Plan of the Government of Timor-Leste. All of us count teachers as one of the key actors for a nation’s development.

Roberto de Araujo, the School Coordinator of Querema Primary School at Hatubuilico, Ainaro District, started teaching in 1994, during the Indonesian occupation.

“Teaching for me is about transferring all the knowledge we have to students. Helping them discover their ability guides them with moral knowledge and encourages them to understand the importance of education for their future, so the success of the students depends on the success of the teachers.”

Antonio Ximenes Paixeco, 17 years old, is a former student of Querema School, and is now studying at senior high school. I met him on his way home from school and spent a few minutes talking to him, asking him a few questions about his former teacher Roberto.

“I still recall the good things I got from him, he is very committed and very patient. I like the way he teaches, he really understood the subject before presenting it in the class. He will go over things until each of us understands.”

Although the teachers have made progress there remain challenges, in both the quality of education and the school infrastructure.

The World Bank has been supporting the education and training sector in Timor-Leste since 2000, with support from AusAID and other partners through financial as well as technical assistance. In recent years, the support has focused on expanding access to primary and secondary education through improving school facilities and learning and teaching materials, and strengthening the quality of learning through teacher training and curriculum development.

Earlier this year, over 600 teachers graduated with a degree in basic education from the National Institute for the Training of Teachers and Education Professionals, part of a broad strategy to both expand access and quality of basic education. “The training was really important, it has helped us understand that the learning process in the classroom has completely changed. Before, teachers were at the center and were 80 percent more active than the students. Now it has changed. Students have become central and are about 80 percent more active than a teacher. This has increased the students’ participation in the class and they are more active in the group discussion”, said Geraldo Ribeiro Soares, Director of Ulmera Primary School, in Liquica District.

Boaventura Maria Soares is a young teacher at Ulmera Primary School, of Liquica District. He started teaching in 2008 and graduated from University in 2010. As a young teacher, he is very appreciative of the training programme for the teachers provided under the Ministry of Education.

“The training is very important, as we now understand that the world is changing, there are new things that we need to know, such as teaching-learning methodologies. This will help us to use more up to date teaching techniques used in other countries, linking to more effective learning processes and impacting on quality of education across the country”.

Education is one of the most important pillars to reach your goals and dreams. World Teachers’ Day represents a significant token of the awareness, understanding and appreciation displayed for the vital contribution that teachers make to education and development.

Celebrate -20th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC)- free resources

As mentioned in an earlier post the 20th November is not only Universal Children’s Day, but also the 20th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.  The Inter-Agency Network for Education in Emergencies (INEE) has produced a celebratory explanation of some of the articles of the CRC and also some important resources. INEE is an open global network of over 3,500 practitioners, students, teachers, staff from UN agencies, non-governmental organizations, donors, governments and universities who work together to ensure all persons the right to quality, relevant and safe educational opportunities.

From INEE:

Tomorrow, 20 November 2009, is the 20th anniversary of the Convention of the Rights of the Child (CRC), which is a legally binding international instrument spelling out the principles that Member States of the United Nations agree to be universal – for all children, in all countries and cultures, at all times and without exception, simply through the fact of their being born into the human family. The four core principles of the Convention are non-discrimination; the best interests of the child; the right to life, survival and development; and respect for the views of the child.

The CRC is of particular importance to education in emergencies, because it forcefully brings together provisions relevant to emergencies and armed conflict in ways that few other international treaties do, offering added protection for the consistently most vulnerable group: the child.

The following 2 articles affirm the right of the child to education, in emergencies, as well as in times of peace and stability:

Article 28 obliges all state parties to establish educational systems and ensure equal and non-discriminatory access to them. Especially primary education must be compulsory and free to all, but also secondary, vocational and higher education must be made progressively available. Education must be provided in a way that respects the dignity of the child at all times. Lastly, Article 28 obliges States to encourage and promote international cooperation, with particular account taken of the needs of developing countries.

Article 29 defines the aims of education, chief amongst these being that education shall be directed to the development of the child’s personality, talents and mental and physical abilities to their fullest potential. This echoes the over-riding principle of the CRC, as stated in Art. 3, of the best interest of the child, requires that schools be child-friendly in the fullest sense of the term and that they be consistent in all respects with the dignity of the child. Lastly, that education must be for “the preparation of the child for responsible life in a free society, in the spirit of understanding, peace, tolerance, equality of sexes, and friendship among all peoples, ethnic, national and religious groups and persons of indigenous origin”.

These 2 articles must be read together with a few other key articles in the Convention:

Article 2  on non-discrimination of any kind, irrespective of the child’s or his or her parent’s or legal guardian’s race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national, ethnic or social origin, property, disability, birth or other status.

Article 38 on the respect for the rules of international humanitarian law in times of conflict, ensuring the continued and specific protection of children and civilians, protecting them from taking part in hostilities and entering into armed forces.

Amnesty International

Article 6 (right to life); Article 9 (separation from parents); Article 12 (Respect for the views of the child); Article 19 (Child’s right to protection from all forms of violence); Article 22 (Refugee children); Article 39 (Rehabilitation of child victims); and the 1st Optional Protocol (On the Involvement of children in armed conflict).

Timor Leste -Ray Harris

The right to education is also articulated in many other international conventions and documents, which do not limit this right to children, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948); the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees (1951); the Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1966); the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (2006); and the non-legally binding Dakar World Education Forum Framework for Action (2000), promoting Education for All.

More free resources

The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child
http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/crc/discussion2008.htm

The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, the body of independent experts responsible for reviewing progress made by States parties in implementing the Convention on the Rights of the Child, devoted its 2008 Day of General Discussion (DGD) on to articles 28 and 29 of the Convention dealing with the right to education, focusing upon the education of children in emergency situations. The day was intended to provide States and other actors with more comprehensive guidance as to their obligations to promote and protect the right to education as outlined in articles 28 and 29. For more information about the DGD, please click here.

The Committee released its report, including recommendations, which you can find on the INEE website along with several other supporting documents about the day. Among the recommendations particularly relevant to INEE members, the Committee:

  • calls upon States parties to honor their obligation to fully ensure the right to education for every child within their jurisdiction, without any discrimination, throughout all stages of emergency situations, including the emergency preparedness phase and the reconstruction and the post emergency phases.
  • calls upon States parties, donors and relief agencies to include education as an integral component of the humanitarian relief response from the outset.
  • urges all States parties, in particular those that are prone to natural disasters or in areas likely to be affected by armed conflict, to prepare a plan of action for the provision of the right to education in emergency situations.
  • urges States parties to fulfill their obligation therein to ensure schools as zones of peace and places where intellectual curiosity and respect for universal human rights is fostered; and to ensure that schools are protected from military attacks or seizure by militants; or use as centres for recruitment. The Committee urges States parties to criminalize attacks on schools as war crimes in accordance with article 8(2)(b) (ix) of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and to prevent and combat impunity.
  • urges States parties, United Nations agencies, donors and relief agencies to ensure that INEE Minimum Standards are applied at all stages of humanitarian relief response in order to ensure the right of children to education in emergencies.
  • recommends that States parties and other international partners support child participation so that children can voice their views with regard to what they learn (the content) and how they learn (rights-based and child-centered active learning) and are empowered by the relevant content of education and the active learning process.

The DGD, and these ensuing recommendations on education in emergencies, built upon the 2008 report of Vernor Muñoz, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Education on the right to education in emergencies. Many INEE members contributed to the contents of this report through questionnaires developed by the Special Rapporteur and disseminated on the INEE Listserv and Website. For a summary of the report, the full text for download in Spanish and English, and highlights relating specifically to INEE and the INEE Minimum Standards please click here.

Right to Education Project
http://www.right-to-education.org
The RTE site offers information and resources for States, civil society organisations and individuals on how to interpret and claim the right to education. It is centered on the basic premise that education must be available, accessible, acceptable and adaptable to all; that education systems must be accountable, participatory, transparent and non-discriminatory; and that education rights entails both the right to, in and through education.

UNICEF Website:  20th Anniversary of the CRC
http://www.unicef.org/rightsite/whatyoucando.htm
The UNICEF site includes a Take Action center that articulates what individuals can do – visa via governments, families and communities, schools and teachers, the media, the private sector, and development and humanitarian organizations — to change the Convention from words on paper into real actions for children. It also contains a section for youth, helping them to understand the CRC, know their rights and take action: http://www.unicef.org/rightsite/433.htm

INEE Minimum Standards Toolkit Thematic Guide on Human & Children’s Rights
The INEE Minimum Standards present a global framework for coordinated action to enhance the quality of educational preparedness and response, increase access to relevant learning opportunities, and ensure humanitarian accountability in providing these services. The Convention on the Rights of the Child is one of the foundational documents for the INEE Minimum Standards. The tools and resources in this guide are a selection from the INEE Minimum Standards Toolkit that relate to the cross-cutting issue of human and children’s rights. To access the Thematic Guide, please click here. All of these resources are available online and on the INEE Minimum Standards Toolkit www.ineesite.org/toolkit.

Your Right to Education: A Handbook for Refugees and Displaced Communities
The Women’s Refugee Commission created Your Right to Education: A Handbook for Refugees and Displaced Communities to raise awareness of everyone’s right to education. The handbook uses drawings that readers at all levels can understand. It is hoped that you will share Your Right to Education with children, young people and adults in your community to help them better understand the right to education, how it fits with other human rights and the benefits that education may bring. It is also hoped that Your Right to Education will serve as a tool to discuss these issues in depth and to encourage action to expand and improve education in displaced communities. Click here to download the Handbook in English, French and Arabic.

A complimentary resource is Right to Education During Displacement. A resource for organizations working with refugees and internally displaced persons (2006, Women’s Refugee Commission), which is available here.

Child Rights Information Network (CRIN)
This website and listserv offers consistently high-quality and comprehensive information on the rights of the child as defined in the CRC. It also has a selection of resources relating to education. Explore the website, and sign-up for their listserv CRINMAIL here: www.crin.org.

A Human Rights Based Approach to Education for All
(2007, UNICEF and UNESCO)
This document brings together the current thinking and practice on human rights-based approaches in the education sector. It presents key issues and challenges in rights-based approaches and provides a framework for policy and programme development from the level of the school up to the national and international levels.While the predominant focus of the document is on primary basic education and child rights within education, it is based on the EFA goals and situated within lifecycle and lifelong learning approaches. It addresses the right to education as well as rights within education, which include human rights education itself. Click here to download this resource.

Using local resources – Timor Leste becoming more independent!

Timor Leste -background

Though the vote in East Timor in 1999  was overwhelmingly for independence, extreme opposition from militia groups led to massive destruction and the displacement of some 250,000 people to West Timor and still more hundreds of thousands to the hills around the villages and urban settlements of East Timor.

Area map Timor Leste
Area map Timor Leste

Over 90% of all school buildings were severely damaged or destroyed by the Indonesian military and in the exodus of Indonesians out of East Timor, the nation lost 20% of its primary school teachers and 80% of secondary teachers. UNICEF and other international aid organizations responded fairly quickly, however, reestablishing classes for 420 of the country’s 800 primary schools by December 1999 plus an additional 273 schools by April 2000. Timor Leste became the world’s  newest nation on May 20th 2002.

Using local resources

During training, it is good practice to make the best of whatever local resources are available, both human and material. While working in Timor Leste (East Timor) I was privileged to meet a local translator, Jorge, who became a good friend and a wonderful natural facilitator, while training head teachers and teachers.

Jorge had survived a ‘near-death’ experience facing Indonesian militia during Timor’s struggle for independence.

During one training workshop, I was naively discussing with  the group about using local materials for use in science lessons. After the session Jorge asked if he could run a short session on the use of local resources for teaching, and he would provide the local materials. I already knew I could trust Jorge so I eagerly let him prepare for the next day. Little did I realise he would spend until midnight preparing for his session, which included climbing trees to collect natural gum, to be used as an adhesive

airexptet

The outdoor laboratory

Although he had no training as a facilitator, he was a natural in terms of knowing his subject, understanding the needs of his audience,preparing well and providing challenging activities so that participants develop new skills in a supportive environment.

In many ways we were teaching each other and learning from each other as I watched in awe at the inventive way he developed his session into a full day experience and how he continued to build and extend his repertoire of training skills. As a local person he was also able to be more challenging and try to get the best out of poorly educated teachers,many of whom had to come off the fields to volunteer to be a teacher in the early days of the world’s newest nation. He believed in people’s capacity and the proof was in the revolution that could be seen in the classrooms of teachers we worked with.

etlocalmats

Products of a  teacher training workshop in rural Timor Leste

With Jorge’s drive and ingenuity bare-walled classrooms, previously devoid of stimulation, became an Aladdin’s cave with models of the solar system hanging from the ceiling, learning corners with local musical instruments, pieces of weaving looms and many other artefacts and teaching aids that started to make lessons come alive and stimulate learning for all the students.

It really was a dream to work alongside Jorge and a humbling experience to see people build something from the ashes of their schools. Rice farmers came off the rice fields to volunteer as teachers, so that children could go to school.

Luckily Jorge was able to witness his country’s independence and be determined that he could help build capacity in others to make the most of new found freedoms.

Dedicated to Jorge Mouzinho and the other young people of Timor Leste.

Dreams of a better future
Dreams of a better future

Ray Harris May 2009