Magazine article UN Chronicle

East Timor: Education and Health in Focus. (Spot Light)

Magazine article UN Chronicle

East Timor: Education and Health in Focus. (Spot Light)

Article excerpt

For the past six months, Armindo Maia has had an enormous responsibility. On 20 September 2001, he was sworn in as the first Education Minister of the Second Transitional Government of East Timor, appointed by the United Nations Secretary-General's Special Representative and Transitional Administrator following the Constituent Assembly elections on 30 August. The Government and its Council of Ministers, headed by Chief Minister Mari Alkatiri, are now governing East Timor, as it prepares for independence as the world's youngest nation State at ceremonies scheduled for 20 May 2002. One of the Government's first actions will be the signing of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Among the notable achievements towards independence by the Second Transitional Government and its predecessors, directly administered by the United Nations, was the return to school of more than 240,000 primary and secondary students in early October 2001 for the new academic year. They are being taught by nearly 6,000 teachers using the more than 1 million textbooks that have been distributed to schools throughout the country. Some 5,000 students are attending the National University of East Timor, which was reopened in November 2000. More than 700 primary and 100 junior secondary schools, 40 preschools and 10 technical colleges are currently functioning in the country. Of these, 535 schools, or more than 2,780 classrooms, have been rehabilitated to basic operational level under the Transitional Administration's Emergency School Readiness Project. This represents the total number of classrooms that needed rehabilitation after the violence of September 1999. The Transitional Administration has also rehabilit ated the Ministry of Education in Dili and has set up administrative structures and emergency educational processes. A school mapping process began in April 2001 to examine each school's physical condition, the facilities available, the area served by each facility, and projected student population and retention rates.

Students at the primary and secondary levels represent one third of East Timor's population. Investment in technical and vocational training for older students is another fundamental priority of the educational administration. …

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