April 29, 2009

Michael Davidson

Upon receiving this reflection Michael had been in Timor for six weeks as a teacher at the Saloi Craic and Samalete schools. Michael is 19 and after his first year of study in Wellington, decided to commit one year to working in Timor Leste. Please feel free to read this but send us an email if you would like to use the material anywhere else.

“Working as a volunteer teacher in East Timor, has made me value and appreciate the education I have received in New Zealand. Education in the East Timor has many challenges. School in East Timor runs six days a week for 9 months. However teachers are employed all year as in the three-month break they under go training. Because of this teachers think that it is o.k. to turn up to school when they feel like it or to sit in the staff room all day. Teachers are quite highly paid (about US$190 per month) and well regarded in this country, but they take their job as if it only provides them with money and seem to have no love for the job. I have seen kids teaching their peers, while teachers are out playing volleyball with one another or have gone home. The resources that the schools have are basic at best, twelve mini sized tables have to provide fifty-two children with enough space to learn, and due to this the children learn to write sideways in their books, as they are so crammed. Most schools outside of the main cities or towns have no electricity or running water, while the buildings are solid concrete foundations with a roof (almost like a large garage). The main tool used for teaching is the blackboard.

However when all seems bleak, the children strive for excellence. They see education as a means to succeed in life. Children I have spoke to dream of becoming doctors or lawyers. While the teachers do not always turn up to class, the students always do. Their commitment and dedication to education can mean that anything is possible in their life. Even though they may not have all the new technology or sophisticated gadgets they embrace the basic. One guitar, soccer and volleyball can provide 250 students with entertainment during the breaks. Those twelve decks that that provide fifty-two students with room to write does not restrict them, and from what I see, the children would have more people if they could.

East Timor has had a tragic history; an example is last year’s shootings of the President and Prime minster. But from what I have seen as a volunteer here in the past three months is that the people carry a spirit of dedication to their country. Working as a volunteer teacher, I can see this dedication in the classroom and outside talking to students, everyone seems to take pride in the worlds newest nation. Around Dili and in the hills there are many government projects occurring addressing the roading, water and electricity problems. These provide valuable jobs to the unemployed who take great pride in their work, big or small. The government is also cracking down on the abuse of the education system and other corruption. If these problem are solved then there seems to be a bright future ahead for East Timor

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