The Jesuits in Timor Leste marked a major milestone on July 14 when they broke ground for the educational institute they are building in Kasait, 18 km west of Dili.
Construction of phase 1 of Instituto de Educação Jesuíta is scheduled to begin at the end of July. The first phase consists of what is needed for the secondary school unit of the institute to open in time for the new school year in January 2013 – the road and entrance, some classrooms and other teaching facilities, and an administration block.
In attendance were the Portuguese and Philippine Ambassadors; directors of schools; presidents of Foundations; representatives of Religious congregations and the local authorities, including Director General of the Ministry of Education, Mr Domingos Maia; teachers and staff of Colegio de Santo Inacio de Loiola; former pupils from Colegio São Jose, the school the Jesuits ran for the Diocese of Dili for 18 years; friends and lay collaborators.
The site was blessed by Fr Lucio de Deus, Vicar General of Maliana Diocese representing the Bishop of Maliana, Dom Norberto do Amaral, who was unable to attend because of a funeral mass.
For the Timorese Jesuits, many of who were involved in the groundbreaking ceremony, the moment brought them closer to the realisation of a dream - after 10 years of discernment about having a quality education apostolate in their country.
The people in the area are excited about the project that they see as giving them an opportunity to improve their lives. Kasait is a rural area where many houses have walls of palm trunks, roofs of corrugated iron and floors of soil or concrete. Many families have to get their drinking water from a public tap or a river, lake or stream.
There is now no secondary school in the immediate area so Instituto de Educação Jesuíta will give the children access to secondary education. The people are also expecting positive changes to the community as the Jesuits form good leaders for the community and the country.
The Jesuits hope that the institute will be a model for other educational institutions in the country. In addition to the secondary school, Instituto de Educação Jesuíta will have a teacher education academy that will help the country increase its number of teachers with formal training in education.
The registration process for the first intake of students has already begun. Registration forms have already been distributed and entrance examinations are scheduled for early August.