Advancing childhood education
The Balibó House Trust works to advance early childhood education in the Balibó through its support for the Balibó Five Kindergarten, so-named by the local community in memory of the events of 1975. The Trust also works with Rotary to distribute donated furniture, computers and educational materials to schools in the district. The staff at the Community Learning Centre coordinate and liaise with the schools to manage this project.
Timor-Leste has the fastest growing population in Asia, and the fastest rate of growth outside sub-Saharan Africa. This rapid growth in the number of young Timorese – 43% of the population is under the age of 14 – highlights the importance of robust and effective childhood education.
Balibo Five Kindergarten
Prior to 2012, the kindergarten in Balibó was too small for the number of children it served, had poor sanitation and suffered from incursions of livestock and vehicles. Over many years the Trust – in conjunction with Rotary clubs in Australia and Timor-Leste – have doubled the size of the kindergarten, installed new toilets, a kitchen, a water tank and secure fencing. We are soon to install new playground equipment kindly donated through Rotary.
The Government pay the salaries of the kindergarten teacher and aides.
If you would like to help the children of Balibó by supporting education in the village, click here
Belola Prep-Grade Two School
The need for a Prep to Grade 2 School to cater for early education of the nearby community of Belola was raised by the community over the past years.
The community recognized that many children in Belola were missing out on the early years of schooling as they were unable to walk the 5km along the busy sealed road to attend school in Balibo.
The Chefe identified the land, which is still owned by the community and was set aside for educational use. There was a school previously on this site during the years of occupation but this was destroyed in 1999.
The Trust in partnership with a number of Rotary Clubs and Spend it Well have recently finished a three room school with an office for staff and storage, five Timorese style toilets and rainwater tank. We have also installed a donated playground and are using the containers that transported the donated furniture as additional storage. The not for profit organisation Spend it Well has previously been involved in building a number of schools in the eastern part of Timor.
The Rotary Donations in Kind warehouse in Sunshine has supplied the furniture for the kindergarten and school.
We have signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Timor Leste Education Department who will fund the salaries of the teachers and be responsible for maintenance and utilities for the school.
The new school at Belola and proud students in their new uniforms.
Faluwai is a small village – about a 30 minute drive outside Balibo on terrible roads. The existing school building was rotting and full of borers, with the risk that the roof would start to fall in very soon. The rooms in which the village’s 70 children were being taught were dark, depressing and dangerous. There were no operating toilets.
Faluwai needed a new 3 classrooms, 1 teacher’s room building and a block of toilets. A donation to fund the entire US$52,000 cost of this school was received from private donors, members of the Rotary Club Port Melbourne. This donation followed a promise made by the donors to the former Prime Minister and President of Timor Leste Xanana Gusmao to fund a school to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Timor Leste’s independence. The building was completed in 2020.
Ai-Asa school is a 30 minute drive from Balibo in a remote, rural area. The school currently has 120 students. There is no water or toilets. In the time since we first looked at helping this school, the situation has gone from bad to desperate. The building which is used to teach the older students is a poor but useable state. The building in which the 6, 7 and 8 year old children are taught was in a terrible state when we first visited, but has now totally collapsed. Thankfully no-one was inside when this happened. But this means the year 1 and 2 children have nowhere to be taught.
Rotary, Balibo House Trust and Spend It Well are collaborating to build Ai-Asa a new 3 classroom and teachers’ room building, bring water to the school and install toilets for the children and teachers. The cost for this project is US$59,000. Commencement of the work was delayed because of COVID-19, but was completed in August 2021.