Supporting primary school education in Timor-Leste has proved to be a significant challenge since the nation’s independence. One of the biggest obstacles is the lack of curriculum materials and reading books available for children in the national language of Tetum. It’s no wonder children from all over Dili were thrilled to hear stories read to them from CARE’s Child Rights Storybook, a compilation of children’s rights stories from Lafaek Magazine.
Huddled together in a crowded room at the Tetum Language Book Fair in Dili, children as young as three waited with great anticipation to hear a story about their homeland. Adding to their excitement, Kirsty Sword Gusmao, the First Lady of Timor-Leste, was there to read to them in their native language, Tetum.
Stories were read to 40 eager primary school students from one of CARE’s Pen Pal schools in Dili, with many well-wishers and supporters looking on. Kirsty kept the children engaged as she playfully read stories symbolising the nation’s identity and culture.
As she reflected, ‘I loved this experience – the fun of it, the excited reaction of the children, the subtle cultural symbolism of the stories, the pride involved in reading – and listening to – stories in the Tetum language…the Storybook is a winner.’
Story reading is part of CARE’s Haburas Labarik Children’s Rights Promotion & Protection project, which promotes children’s rights through educational initiatives aimed at primary school children, teachers and women throughout Timor-Leste. The recently launched Child Rights Storybookis one of these.
In addition to stories about children’s rights from Lafaek Magazine, the storybook also includes activities for children and classroom resources for teachers. These help to provide Timor-Leste’s youngest citizens with an understanding of their fundamental human rights and, in the process, deepen their experience of the fun of learning.
‘Self-esteem is important to any child. Fostering pride in one’s country, a love of learning and an understanding of the rights and obligations involved in being a citizen helps build that self-esteem. These projects make a wonderful contribution to this goal’, Kirsty continues.
Kirsty’s reading was complemented by a live performance of Radio Lafaek from CARE’s partner Creche Foundation and a lively set of activities by the children, using the storybook. Overall, the day culminated a very rewarding three years for CARE’s Haburas Labarik project in the promotion of children’s rights and CARE’s passion and commitment to the fight for social justice for all in Timor-Leste.
Over 27,000 storybooks have been distributed to over 1,100 schools across Timor-Leste, with an additional 4,300 books for libraries and other children’s groups.