History of independence of Timor-Leste

Thank you very much for the opportunity given to me to deliver this SPEECH. His/her Excellency Mr/Mrs………distinguish guests, ladies and gentlemen,

It is a great honour for me to speak on behalf of the East Timorese students studying in Melbourne.
I’d like to open my speech by saying congratulation to Timor-Leste and its people for the 38th commemoration of Timor-Leste's Declaration of Independence. On 28th November 1975

Xavier do Amaral proclaimed the independence of Timor-Leste. Taking this opportunity, and again on behalf of the East Timor Students Association in Victoria, I would also like to congratulate all my fellow Timorese who have just accomplished their studies in different disciplines of undergraduate and post graduate levels in this year.
Each of us has our own life experience and previous educational background.
Let me share my previous educational experience. Presently, I have also accomplished my Bachelor of Arts Degree in International Community Development, in Victoria University. This degree reminds me for the hardest time I had to overcome critical challenges that I faced during the times I began my primary education from primary level up to the accomplishment of my senior high school level in my own district of Viqueque. I feel sad that, many of my classmates of primary school were unable to succeed at the primary education. It was in Lacluta, one of Viqueque’s remote sub districts. Only few of us could proceed to junior high school, but unfortunately, not all of us were able to complete senior high school successfully.

After the restoration of Independence of Timor-Leste, I learnt from many project reports of non- governmental organizations and Timorese Government that, socio-economic and cultural negative values have hindered Timorese children from going to school. I completely disagreed with this argument and I will prove it with my own experience.
I will focus my speech on the educational hardship faced by the generation of East Timorese who were born in the periods between the 1970s and the 1980s, which is this generation includes most of us here.

The majority of the population of Viqueque district are subsistence farmers. Traditionally, most of the innocent children have to learn and accept the real life condition of their families. They have to reduce the heavy responsibility of their parents by working on the farm and looking after their livestock. It continues in the rural areas in my district even up until today, where these poor children cannot enjoy their childhood, education, and they are even uncertain about their future.
Traditionally, in October each year we start to clean the land for farming. In November we plant maize, beans, cassava and watermelon and so on.  In  February we have to clean the grass. The harvest time is in March. Yet, we even plant rice two time in year. The first period of rice cultivation begins in November and finishes by harvesting in April.  During these periods we also need to take care of the rice from wild bird. The second period of rice cultivation begins from April to August, the harvest time.
Schooling and farming at the same time are really time pressured for rural Timorese children, such as the ones in my sub-district in Viqueque. School age children must really be able to manage their time.
  The normal school time is from 7:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. from Monday to Thursday. Except on Friday the school finishes at 11a.m.

Taking this opportunity, I would also like to thank Victoria University, specifically the Community Development of the International Stream for its appropriate educational system which gives students flexibility to choose relevant topics for their essay writing. Although, each subject has a guide that students must follow. I would say that, approximately 50% of my essays made references to development and its successes and issues in my own country.

From my personal life experience I am able to identify and categorize East Timorese students experiences based on the way each student overcomes critical challenges in his/her educational experience. There can be three categories, particularly for students living in rural areas including the ones in my district, and I believe that, this hard situation may contribute to the increase of drop-out and illiteracy rates of our East Timorese Students.

The first category is composed of children/students who cannot let their parents to work alone in farming and so they prefer to help their parents than to schooling. Usually, they are extremely tired after working so much in the farm. Unfortunately, they have less time and not encouraged to learning.
The second category consist of children/students who are engaged themselves in a lot more in education until they do not contribute in any farming activities. They may refuse to work in the farm because they are tired after schooling. However, the children in this category may be considered as impolite or disrespectful by each families and relatives. Parents in this category may think that, farming is valuable than education, since they can feed themselves by working in the farm. In fact, some of these children do not really use their time properly for learning.

The third category includes children/students who tend to stay in between the first two categories mentioned earlier on. They think that both education and farming are important. They try to manage their time to follow school activities without completely ignoring farming activities and domestic work, such as cleaning, cooking, and collecting water and firewood. These children are considered as polite and respectful but they have to sacrifice their time and energy for learning. Some of these children cannot really accomplish their education because they are not simply students but also workers. I belong to this third category.

Ladies and Gentlemen, referring back to the three categories I mentioned before,…………which of the social, economic and cultural challenges should be claimed?
When I tell this life story, I have to say that, what I learnt at that time did not really reflect my real life. My intention here is on the Indonesian educational system and subjects that I learnt according to the Indonesian curriculum.

Here are some real examples: We learnt geography, but we never practice how to draw a simple map that goes from my home to the school, a simple map of my village. Even though, the MOUNT of Matebian is close to my district, I never studied about this MOUNT. I was even taught about the Merapi in Central Java, Indonesia.
There were no agricultural subjects in the school. We never discussed farming system in my village, its production and issues. We never had field visits to interesting objects around us.
We learnt economics and it was simply in theories of production, distribution, and consumption. We never learnt about what were main products in our district, and where can they be distributed to, and vice-versa. We were in a situation that no options,… and….so that is a compulsory education model that I experienced.

Ladies and gentlemen,
By pointing out some of these educational hardships, I don’t mean that I’m one of the strong followers of Radical Views who argue that the use of western educational models and syllabuses increases the developing countries dependency upon the west, and/or Reformist Views who argue that the increasing number of unemployment in the developing countries is because the existing education system is training people for the wrong kind of jobs, and that I want to criticise the Neo-Classical Views who argue that countries will develop or rather - if everything associated with “being modern” is introduced there. But as a Community Development student, I would like to borrow an idea of Laurience Saha, a Sociologist (2001) that, education as a major agent for the economic, social and political improvement of society, however, he underlines that, it is only if education is adapted and used appropriately based on the cultural context in any given country.
So, my point of raising this issue is to initiate among us to advocate for the better education system for Timor Leste, both formal and non-formal education. It is a good educational system that will covers our country’s needs, the needs of our young 1990s generation, and the needs of the millennium generation onwards.

To finish off, and again, on behalf of The East Timor Student Association in Victoria, I would like to thank the Australia-East Timor Association (AETA) of Victoria for organising this special event. In this special occasion, we would like to convey our special thanks to the Australian Scholarship Award, the Government of Australia and the Government of Timor-Leste for their genuine support; today we have accomplished our educational aspirations in different training specifications. Our special gratitude is also goes to the past and current holders of the scholarship managers and the teams in Dili as well as in Melbourne for their strong support and serious attention to our education and also our life. Our deepest thanks to our Universities, our Lecturers and the Course Coordinators, our classmates and colleagues who also contributed ideas and support during the whole time of our study in Australia. Not to forgetting to include other Australian Private Scholarship, like the  Walter Mangold Trust Fund support for the Timorese students for English for Academic Purposes course in Melbourne. We also really thank our families, relatives and friends, as well as the organizations we worked for in Timor-Leste for their continuous help and supports. Finally, I would also like to thank so much to all Timor-Leste’s friendship cities in Melbourne, individuals, volunteers, and Timorese communities, other organizations and groups, for their continuous support and care.

Thank You All for spending your time carefully listening to my speech

Author : Mira Fonseca
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