Education is a crucial component of efforts to advance development in Timor-Leste, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said as he continued his visit to the Southeast Asian nation today, stressing that it is essential to step up initiatives to give access to quality schooling to all children.
“Education promotes equality. Learning lifts people out of poverty. Life skills can even prevent disease and save lives, and whole economies can prosper,” Mr. Ban said during his visit to the Cassait School in the Liquica district in Dili, the capital. “That is how we build productive societies – one lesson at a time.”
The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has been working with the Government and other partners to make education institutions, such as the Cassait School, more child-friendly. The agency has supported the construction of school buildings, training of teachers and parents, and provision of school materials, among other things.
“When I see Timor-Leste investing in education, I know the seeds of a better future will blossom soon. I thank all the generous donors who support this wonderful school,” Mr. Ban said. “The aim is to enrol all children, improve quality and foster global citizens.”
In a news release, UNICEF reported that since the Cassait School joined the Child Friendly School programme three years ago, enrolment has increased by 11 per cent and the retention rate by four per cent. Several student clubs have been created along with environmental initiatives.
On 26 September, Mr. Ban will launch a Global Initiative on Education (Education First), which aims to achieve quality, relevant and inclusive education for every child. The Special Envoy on Global Education, Gordon Brown, who also visited the school, will help galvanize support for the initiative.
“It is a great achievement that in Timor-Leste, 90 per cent of children enter primary school, but we want it to be 100 per cent. It is a great achievement that in Timor-Leste, 65 per cent of children are completing primary school, but we want it to be 100 per cent,” Mr. Brown said. “My task will not have succeeded unless by 2015 we have every child in Timor-Leste finishing primary school.”
In May, Timor-Leste celebrated its 10th anniversary since its restoration of independence in 2002. The country also held parliamentary elections last month, which were held in a peaceful and orderly manner, according to observers.
During his visit, which included earlier stops at Parliament, a police academy, a new museum and other significant locations, Mr. Ban has praised the country for its progress over the past decade in advancing development and consolidating its security sector.