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Learning Through Play in Timor-Leste

Plan International's Early Childhood Care and Development Programme has been running playgroups across Aileu District to support children during the most critical phase in their development – the first five years. Supporting children to get the best possible start in life wouldn't be possible without committed volunteers who are helping to prepare children for school. Through play, 3 - 4 year olds are becoming more confident and learning skills they can take with them into the classroom.

"The best part of my job is interacting with the children. As an old man teaching the children makes me feel young. I also get to see changes in the students. When they first come here they don’t speak up. Now they can tell stories, sing songs, say their names and stay in the classroom without their parents.”

Carlos Bere has been a volunteer playgroup teacher in Maurusa village for the last 10 years. His job is to teach, console and entertain classes of 3-4 year olds every week. It’s a job he loves and it allows him to give something back to his community – by shaping the skills of Maurusa’s youngest generation.

"I decided to become a volunteer play group teacher because I want to strengthen children’s skills so they are prepared when they begin primary school."

“I teach the children colours, how to identify parts of the body, how to respect people, how to greet people, to be a good person and to understand something about life. Coming here helps them to have a healthy life and it also develops their personal identity," he said.

Play group teacher Carlos Bere with his students in Maurusa village

Plan International's Early Childhood Care and Development Programme has been running playgroups across Aileu District to support children during the most critical phase in their development – the first five years. Plan currently runs 29 playgroups and pre-schools for children 3-5 years old who are staffed by passionate volunteers such as Carlos.

Playgroups are a chance for children to develop their physical, social-emotional, cognitive and language skills and graduate ready to enter primary school.

As balls rain down onto the roof of the playgroup – children having taken their games outside for the day – mother Mariazinha Soares explains the difference the playgroup has made in the life of her 3 year old daughter Loiola. “I’ve been bringing my daughter here for less than 1 year and I have already seen huge progress. I want my children to go to school and get a good education, so we practice what they learn at playgroup each night,” she explains.