In Timor-Leste, “school goes home” during coronavirus
June 22, 2020 by Lucinda Ramos, Global Partnership for Education |
4 minutes read
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School closures forced by the coronavirus pandemic in Timor-Leste have disrupted learning for 400,000 students. With GPE’s support, the government of Timor-Leste is ensuring learning continues during this unprecedented time, while preparing schools for safe reopening.

In Timor-Leste, schools have been closed since March 23, as part of the national efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19. As a result, 400,000 children are now out of school.

The coronavirus pandemic has placed enormous pressure on the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport to provide continuous learning opportunities for students – especially for the most vulnerable – along with ensuring that schools are safe and adequately prepared when they reopen.

GPE allocated a US$3.5 million grant to support these efforts, with UNICEF selected as the grant agent. The activities funded by the grant are based on the country’s COVID-19 response plan, which outlines the actions required to respond effectively to the education challenges posed by coronavirus and was developed through a participatory process involving core education stakeholders – particularly members of the local education group.

“The award of the GPE grant is truly a significant achievement for the children of Timor-Leste. This generous grant would help us expand our work and build on some of the successes of the past two months, and work on the inequality gaps that the COVID-19 pandemic exposed.”
H.E. Dulce de Jesus Soares, Minister of Education, Youth and Sport

Launching distance learning initiatives

The COVID-19 funding will help the government of Timor-Leste ensure children have continuing access to educational opportunities. As part of these efforts, the GPE program will expand the Eskola Ba Uma (“School goes home”) initiative launched by the Ministry, which relies on an open, distance and flexible learning approach through different technologies.

Eskola Ba Uma comprises a series of dynamic school lessons, based on the national curriculum and broadcast on TV, radio, and on an online platform. This initiative is already running on a small scale with the help of a team of teachers and a media producer.

The TV programs started airing in March and are broadcast on three local TV channels. To date, 28 television programs have been aired, with the development of 30 new programs in progress.

The 30-minute Eskola Ba Uma radio broadcasts are adapted from the TV programs and target children from preschool to 6th grade. Currently the radio programs are broadcast every day on the main national radio station and on 22 community stations.

The GPE program will also support an online learning platform called Learning Passport developed by UNICEF in partnership with Microsoft and the University of Cambridge. Learning Passport offers a virtual library with curriculum-based textbooks and supporting materials, including songs and videos. The Eskola Ba Uma TV lessons will be also available soon on this platform.

With GPE’s funding, teachers will receive training on how to support learning outside the classroom and on teaching through the online platforms.

A boy reads as his grandmother looks on. The book is part of a series of audio-visual and printed material produced by the Ministry of Education and UNICEF to help children continue learning during ongoing school closures, in line with the school curriculum. Television programs, radio programs and e-books, as well as a book for parents to explain COVID-19 to children with neurodevelopmental needs, are available on the Learning Passport platform developed by Microsoft, UNICEF and the University of Cambridge.
A boy reads as his grandmother looks on. The book is part of a series of audio-visual and printed material produced by the Ministry of Education and UNICEF to help children continue learning during ongoing school closures, in line with the school curriculum. Television programs, radio programs and e-books, as well as a book for parents to explain COVID-19 to children with neurodevelopmental needs, are available on the Learning Passport platform developed by Microsoft, UNICEF and the University of Cambridge. Schools in Timor-Leste have been closed since March 23, 2020 to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
UNICEF/UNI320756/Soares
“Children have been out of school for over two months in Timor-Leste due to measures put in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The funding from the Global Partnership for Education is critical in helping children continue learning in these challenging circumstances and will help schools put in place measures for safe re-opening.”
Valérie Taton, UNICEF Representative

Support beyond distance learning

To complement these efforts and because not all students have access to technology, the GPE program will support the provision of learning materials to children enrolled in preschool and basic education. Children with disabilities will receive audio and tactile materials; children from minority communities will receive materials in their local language.

A girl reads as children look on in Timor-Leste. This book is part of a series of audio-visual and printed material produced by the Ministry of Education and UNICEF to help children continue learning during ongoing school closures. Television programs, radio programs and e-books, as well as a book for parents to explain COVID-19 to children with neurodevelopmental needs, are available on the Learning Passport platform developed by Microsoft, UNICEF and the University of Cambridge. Credit: © UNICEF/UNI320753
A girl reads as children look on in Timor-Leste. This book is part of a series of audio-visual and printed material produced by the Ministry of Education and UNICEF to help children continue learning during ongoing school closures. Television programs, radio programs and e-books, as well as a book for parents to explain COVID-19 to children with neurodevelopmental needs, are available on the Learning Passport platform developed by Microsoft, UNICEF and the University of Cambridge. Credit: © UNICEF/UNI320753/Soares

To prepare for school re-opening, the GPE program will support initiatives to encourage students to go back to school by ensuring access to hygiene and sanitation facilities, developing tools to assess children’s learning and wellbeing, and promoting remedial classes for children with learning gaps.

Additionally, GPE will help to ensure teachers are prepared for school re-opening, including by managing accelerated or catch-up classes and setting up classes according to the new criteria – smaller classes and adhering to social distancing guidelines.

The development of online learning opportunities presents a new way of educating children in Timor-Leste to not only ensure they learn during the COVID-19 pandemic, but also to reach children historically out of school.

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Financing, School health
East Asia and Pacific: Timor-Leste

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