Bringing quality education within the reach of children in rural areas

The Jesuits in Timor-Leste have launched a new education endeavour for the children in Ulmera, a rural part of the country where the still under construction Jesuit education project is located. Through the Ulmera Project, they aim to increase the chances the children from the Ulmera community have of getting into Colégio de Santo Inácio de Loiola (CSIL), the Jesuit secondary school in Kasait, Ulmera.

Fr Weyms Sanchez SJ, CSIL principal, says that the project grew out of the recognition of the challenges these children face in gaining access to the quality education the Jesuit school offers. These include their lack of preparedness to face the high standards of the school, their own or their parents’ attitudes toward education, and their families’ limited resources.

With the Ulmera Project, the school can do more than provide a good education; it can contribute to the community as a whole by helping to increase access to the quality education it offers. As Fr Sanchez says, “An entity may contribute positively to the life of the community especially if its existence will multiply opportunities for a better quality of life for the entire community.” This is what the Jesuits seek to do with Colégio de Santo Inácio de Loiola and the Ulmera Project.

Students from a local primary school in UlmeraAccordingly the project aims to educate the parents of local students on the importance of education and to orient them on the opportunities for getting a quality education which includes bursaries that they can apply for; supplement the instruction local students receive in their current schools especially in the areas of Portuguese, Mathematics and English, in order to increase their chances of passing the CSIL Entrance Test; and provide confidence-building activities so that the local students perform well in the interview phase of the application process.

To achieve these goals, a Supplementary Education Program (SEP) has been developed to help fifth to ninth grade students from a local government school in Kasait who have shown that they can meet the demands of study in CSIL. The lessons in these classes, which include Portuguese and Mathematics, will help them become better applicants in the CSIL Entrance Exam and help them build the skills they need should they be accepted into the school.

The second major program in the Ulmera Project, the Complementary Education Program (CEP), is designed for students currently enrolled at the CSIL. It aims to provide complementary lessons and activities designed to increase mastery of what is learned in school. The classes will cover English, Mathematics, Portuguese, and Personality Development and Values Education. This program will be held from February to December each year.

With the Complementary Education Program, CSIL aims to provide guidance and counselling – both academic and non-academic – to ensure that its students are able to meet the demands of studies there; and do well in the National and Local Examinations.

The Ulmera Project will cost approximately US$7,500 to set up and run for a year, but Fr Sanchez is hopeful about getting the necessary funding, and is looking forward to starting the project next month.

CSIL studentsCSIL accepted its first intake of students in Year 7 in January 2013, and will have its full complement of approximately 600 students in Years 7 to 12 by January 2018. Together with the teacher training institute, Instituto São João de Brito, CSIL receives significant support from the Jesuit provinces of Australia, Japan and the Philippines. 

The Jesuit education project is still under construction with building work recently beginning on the teacher training institute. To contribute to Projeto Educação Jesuíta and its related projects, and hence towards giving more children in Timor-Leste a quality education, email comms [at] sjapc [dot] net. In Australia, donations can be made through Jesuit Mission at www.jesuitmission.org.au.

Photo caption: A student from the Jesuit Education Project in Timor-Leste (2013)