Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Communities make children’s early learning possible in Timor-Leste

© UNICEF Timor-Leste/2016/BSoares
Students enjoying their school in Timor-Leste

With few public pre-schools in Timor-Leste, many children, particularly those in rural areas, miss out on the opportunity of early learning. UNICEF is working with the Ministry of Education, Village Councils and parents to set up community pre-schools to help children get the best start in life.


By Leotes Lugo Helin, Chief of Education, UNICEF Timor-Leste


VIQUEQUE, Timor-Leste, 25 September 2017 – “Ida, rua, tolu, hat, lima, nen, hitu, walu. Se mak badinas ba eskola buka matenek to’o hetan. Haksolok ba, haksolok ba, hader dader saan ba eskola” (One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight. We love to go to school to get knowledge. Be happy, be happy. Wake up in the morning to go to school).
Luzeria Ornai, 3, sings the ba eskola (Going to school) song along with other children her age at a community pre-school in Ossu, one of 59 in the Viqueque Municipality that is supported by UNICEF.


© UNICEF Timor-Leste/2017/LHelin
Luzeria Ornai (first child on the left) and her classmates at the UNICEF-supported community pre-school

A school on the doorstep

Without the community pre-school, Luzeria would not have the opportunity of early learning as the nearest public pre-school is about three kilometers away.

With limited public transport, children in Luzeria’s community had to wait until they were old enough to walk to the nearest primary school, skipping pre-school. This makes them prone to repeat the first grade – around 24 per cent of them, according to 2016 data from the Ministry of Education.

“I’m really happy that now we have a pre-school close to our homes. As a community we can look after our children,” says Manuel Ruas one of the members of the aldeai (village) council and a member of the community pre-school School Management Committee (SMC). “The children are very happy. They don’t have to walk far to be able to go to pre-school.”

Two of Manuel’s grandchildren are attending the pre-school. “As a SMC member, I also help look after the children. I supervise that everything is going well with the pre-school and the facilitators,” he says, proud of his contribution to the education of the young children in his village.


© UNICEF Timor-Leste/2017/LHelin
Manuel Ruas is a member of the School Management Committee and Village Council is supporting the community pre-school in his village

Preparing for the future
Luzeria’s mother, Angelica Ornai, 27, is also happy that Luzeria and her brother Dionildo, 5, now have a chance to attend pre-school. 
“I come here every day [there is a class] and help look after the children. We, parents, sometimes contribute $0.25 for the snacks of children or for other materials for the pre-school,” she says.
Angelica and parents like her in the community see how such an organized early learning programme can help prepare their children for formal schooling.
“Here in the pre-school they learn how to recognize letters and count. They sing a lot of songs and interact with other children,” Angelica says, adding that this helps children prepare for Grade 1. She is confident that her children will do well once they go to primary school.
Giving children like Luzeria and Dionildo a pre-school experience provides a stimulating environment that supports their brain development. When children play, they’re learning skills that will equip them for all of life’s challenges, like how to solve problems or why it’s important to share, and other social skills that will help them navigate our complex world.
Evidence indicates quality pre-school education is a sound investment and ensures children get the best start in life.

© UNICEF Timor-Leste/2017/LHelin
Students participate in the community based pre-school
 
Reaching children in remote areas

Establishing the community pre-schools is part of UNICEF’s support to the Ministry of Education of Timor-Leste to innovate and reach children in remote parts of the country. 

According to the 2015 census, 72 per cent of the population live in rural areas. There are few public pre-schools and those that exist are mostly concentrated in urban areas or municipal capitals. Pre-school enrolment stood at around 16.9 per cent in 2016 for the whole country, one of the lowest in Southeast Asia.

Currently being modelled in two of Timor-Leste's 13 municipalities, this is the first time community pre-schools are being implemented at scale in the country. UNICEF also supports parenting education sessions for parents of children attending the community pre-schools.
Community driven

A cornerstone of the UNICEF-supported pre-schools is community ownership that is ensured through a consultative process before establishing the pre-school.

The School Management Committee (SMC) consists of two to three members from the community, working together with the community pre-school facilitators to ensure that classes take place. They are identified by the community members and are volunteers. SMC members are also often among the leaders from the community, either the Village Chief or a member of the Village Council like Manuel.

UNICEF with the support of its partners, the New Zealand government, H&M Foundation and Morgan Foundation, provides trainings to the facilitators and supply learning materials to the community pre-schools. Facilitators also use locally available materials to create toys and learning materials for the children. 
With the active engagement of these volunteer facilitators, parents and community leaders, children like Luzeria and her brother Dionildo will continue to get an opportunity for a brighter future through pre-school education.


Links: https://www.unicef.org/timorleste/parenting_and_pre-school_Aug2017.pdf
https://www.unicef.org/timorleste/Quality_Education_FINAL_web.pdf





Tuesday, August 29, 2017

“Recipes for Healthy Meals”: A recipe book to combat undernutrition



With eye-catching beautiful photography, delicious recipes containing locally available ingredients and an inspiring presentation, the “Recipes for Healthy Meals” book is now available in Timor-Leste. The book covers types of food and information that families need for ensuring nutrition of children and family members. Written in Tetum (local language), the book presents 31 delicious and healthy recipes of nutritious food for infants, young children, pregnant and breastfeeding women and other family members.

Franzelina dos Reis happily showing banana pumpkin mash after cooking. 
©UNICEF Timor-Leste/2017/ahelin
 The book is a result of an effort of mothers and Mother Support Group members who came together and contributed by bringing their knowledge and experiences together. It also explains the techniques of ensuring hygiene practices while cooking and serving food as well as nutritious value of each food item with illustration.

As part of the demonstration of recipes, Mother Support Group members participated in a cooking event in Dari, a suburb area of Dili, the capital of Timor Leste.

“I am so happy to take part in this activity. It’s a learning opportunity for me; I’ve learned how to prepare various nutritious meals. I learned a new recipe on how to make a banana and pumpkin mashed for baby. These food are very healthy and yummy; I’ll prepare this food for my children at home,” said Franzelina dos Reis (32), who was one of the participants participated in the cooking demonstration session.

Adao de Jesus proudly showing “Na’an Ho ForTali”-  that he cooked. 
©UNICEF Timor-Leste/2017/ahelin
 Adao de Jesus (26), a Mother Support Group member also contributed by providing his recipe “Na’an Ho Fore-Tali”- a delicious mixed of vegetables and meat- for children aged 2 to 5 years, and also for adult. According to Adão, every one of his family including children love this food.  

“Developing a food recipe book for children, mothers and families is a great initiative as community involved themselves in producing the recipe by using variety of local foods,” said Ana Maria Guterres, Health Promotion Officer of the Ministry of Health. “I also learned some new recipes and already cooked for my children. My children love ‘fish with porridge’ and ask to have it every day,” Ana continued.

The engagement of the Mother Support Group in preparing and developing the recipe book was instrumental in ensuring community participation and ownership.

Lack of information and common traditional practices often act as major factors in food preparation practices at the household level in Timor-Leste. According to the Timor-Leste Food and Nutrition Survey 2013, only 1 in 5 children 6-23 months are receiving the recommended minimum acceptable diet, though majority of its population (61.3%) had an acceptable Food Consumption Score (TLFNS, 2013).

The recipe book provides the much needed age specific information and presents various recipes which will enable parents and families to prepare nutritious food with low cost and locally available ingredients in the community.

Mother Support Group members are proudly using the Recipe book for cooking in various events.  
  ©UNICEF Timor-Leste/2017/lfonseca
Developed under the partnership of the Ministry of Health, European Union and UNICEF Integrated Nutrition Project, the book provides guidance to mothers and families. The Primary Health Care Staff and Mother Support Groups will also use the recipe book to do cooking demonstrations in communities across the country. This book will act as a tool to promote healthy cooking practices.


-      By Veronica Correia , Communication for  Development Officer (Nutrition/Sanitation)
UNICEF Timor-Leste