Partnering with Alola Foundation in East Timor
20 July, 2012
Kirsty Gusmao [right] with East Timor Ambassador, Abel Guterres [left] and AusAID Deputy Director General, James Batley [centre]
Almost 90,000 books being packed for distribution to every primary school in East Timor.
Photo: Joao Vas/AusAID
On Friday 20 July, AusAID hosted a visit by East Timor’s former First Lady and Chair of the Alola Foundation, H.E Kirsty Sword Gusmão, and Ambassador, H.E Abel Guterres. The meeting was an opportunity to review the positive work that AusAID and Alola Foundation are doing to strengthen education outcomes in East Timor, especially for young women and girls.
AusAID and Alola Foundation signed a three-year agreement in December 2011 to improve access to, and the quality of, education for young people. Together, we have:
- provided scholarships for more than 200 girls from all districts of East Timor to complete their high school education;
- delivered 94,500 books in Tetum for primary school children to learn in their own language; and
- supported a mother tongue education program pilot in 12 schools across three Districts.
This collaboration is providing valuable opportunities for young Timorese who would otherwise go without. East Timor has one of the youngest populations in the region, with 60 per cent of the population under the age of 18. Each year it is estimated that approximately 15,000 school leavers enter the job market in search of employment. Competition for jobs is fierce for everyone, even more so for young women who face greater barriers to workforce participation.
'I am delighted by what Alola is achieving with the support of AusAID. Timorese girls from poor backgrounds who might otherwise be forced to drop out of school early are now able to go onto high school. The difference this is making to young women and their families is life changing,' Ms Sword Gusmão said.
By offering young women a hand up, AusAID and Alola Foundation are helping to improve their employment prospects so they can generate income and support their families. This elevates the status of women and empowers them in the eyes of their communities.
Increasing the pool of learning materials in Tetum, one of East Timor’s two national languages, is another feature of Alola’s education and literacy program. Publication of learning aids in Tetum have not kept pace with demand, meaning many kids still miss out on learning in their own language and with reference material they can best relate to. In May 2012, AusAID and Alola Foundation distributed 94,500 school books in Tetum which went a long way to addressing this shortfall.
Building on these results, AusAID has committed to supporting a second phase of support to Alola. This will enable even more literacy materials to be published in Tetum and be distributed to primary schools for use during the critical years of early education. Additional funding will also be allocated for more teacher training.
It is estimated that as many as 85 per cent of Timorese children do not go on to high school. Addressing this gap is a priority for Alola Foundation. 'By increasing the effectiveness of learning for Timorese children, it is hoped that more children will stay in school and more parents will see the results of quality education,' explained Ms Sword Gusmão.
AusAID's education program in East Timor
Alola's website [external website]
Last Reviewed: 20 July, 2012