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Teaming-up with communities to build new preschools

In rural areas of Timor-Leste, Plan International teams-up with communities to build new preschools and enable all children to learn, play and sing - and get ready for the next chapter in their lives.

Diva and her classmates celebrate the finished construction of their new preschool.
Diva and her classmates celebrate the finished construction of their new preschool.

In rural areas in Timor-Leste, around 75 percent of children do not receive any early education, often because the nearest pre-school is already too far for them to reach. In isolated villages, most children must wait to enter primary school to start being stimulated and interact with other children for the first time. Girls, who are often expected to help their mothers with house duties from the earliest age, are the ones who miss out the most.

Building preschools in isolated villages

To prevent this, Plan International cooperates with communities and local authorities of those remote villages in Aileu and Ainaro municipalities to establish community-based preschools. But none of this would be possible without dedicated members from the community, coming together and volunteering their time to build the preschools.

In isolated villages, most children must wait to enter primary school to start being stimulated

With research showing the many benefits that early childhood education can have not only on children, but also on their families and whole communities, interventions like this are essential. Children who benefit from quality early childhood education programs are better prepared for primary school and will reach better education outcomes. It also helps to reduce drop-out rates, improves school readiness, and increases school achievement.

For 5 year-old Diva from Asubilitoho, a small village in Aileu municipality, having a preschool in her village means that she’s able to leave the house to sing and play instead of dust and clean. Diva’s new preschool was officially launched this month, meaning that children in this village will now be able to learn, sing, play – and get ready for the next chapter in their education.

“I like going to the preschool, because I always stand in front of the class to sing and tell stories to all my friends,” says Diva with a bright eye. During the launch ceremony, we could see Diva and her classmates dancing, singing and reciting poetry.

Engaging everyone for long-lasting change

But building the school is only one side of the story. Plan International is working with everyone involved all year around - parents, authorities and community leaders - to raise awareness about the importance of early education and development and how to better prepare children for the next steps in their lives.

By getting the whole community on board, we make sure that the preschool will continue functionning once the project ends.

Early education is very important to develop the brain of our children, and prepare them for a better future.

Diva’s mother attended the workshops organised through the project, and understands how important this new preschool is for her daughter. “Early education is very important to develop the brain of our children, and prepare them for a better future,” she explains. “At home I help my daughter to practice reading and writing, so she can continue to do well in class,” she adds proudly.

In Aileu municipality, two new preschools were launched this month only, with a total of 23 having been built in both municipalities since the start of this project.