CAMBRIDGE, Massachusetts — Education in Timor-Leste, a young Southeast Asian nation that only recently gained independence from Indonesia in 2002, has a turbulent history. The years leading up to independence were disastrous in terms of education. According to Nations Encyclopedia, over 90 percent of all school buildings in Timor-Leste were severely damaged or destroyed by the Indonesian military. By 2000, UNICEF helped reestablish 683 schools, but education was still lacking.
In April-May of 2006, Timor-Leste endured a brief but intense period of violence and unrest. The causes of the 2006 Timorese crisis were many, but USAID points to a few key causes including; “divisions among the nation’s senior political leaders,” weaknesses in the justice system, and disillusioned, violent groups of the population, particularly “young unemployed males”.
The 2006 crisis had various economic and political repercussions. In 2007, a new government formed with increased interest in improving the lives of youths in Timor-Leste. The 2007 National Youth Policy included both short-term and medium-term solutions to address issues of disenfranchised youths.
In 2010, the World Bank financed the Youth Development Project (YDP). The project, which involves a 2.12 million dollar grant, aims to decrease the risk of youths being marginalized once again by means of supporting government efforts to educate youths and increase civic involvement.
YDP among other projects established by both the World Bank and Global Partnership for education have unequivocally improved education in Timor-Leste. Between 2002 and 2014, enrollment in schools has increased 150 percent. Moreover, the number of teachers has more than doubled.
Education in Timor-Leste still requires continuous effort; there is a large discrepancy between urban and rural populations’ enrollments in school. Fortunately, the enrollment rate for primary and secondary school in urban areas is 100 percent. However, in rural areas the enrollment rate is 60 percent.
The Youth Development Project is an ongoing effort for empowering youths in Timor-Leste to avoid another violent crisis like that of 2006. Increasing access to schools in rural communities and continuing to increase the number of qualified teachers in schools will ensure a bright future for this growing nation.
– Sabrina Yates