The new year brings with it new challenges and opportunities for the Geelong-Viqueque Friendship Schools Inc. We aim to continue the good work undertaken over previous years in promoting improved literacy in Viqueque. This includes sustaining the Library movement there, funding the continued provision of high quality teacher professional education by skilled local trainers and the commitment of significant funds for scholarship support for worthy students who otherwise would struggle to complete their secondary or tertiary education.
2015 will also see seven of our local Geelong schools send students on visits to Timor Leste, with many taking the journey to Viqueque as well as other regions within the country. Likewise a number of our committee and supporters will be making the journey to Viqueque. President Peter Cannon and past-Treasurer and committee member Tricia Blane will be spending May in Viqueque for an extended stay and Patrice Hall, another committee member, has already embarked on a visit.
The committee members will use these visits to strengthen the connection with our Project Officer in Viqueque, Mariano Da Silva. In his role as Project Officer, Mariano supervises the Teacher Training programs, the Scholarship program and is currently supporting the development of the Library program. Mariano is our anchor for all visiting groups and frequently provides personal hospitality to Geelong friends.
In Geelong we will be once again run our successful Timor Leste Schools Day in May, participate in the celebration of Timor Leste’s Independence Day at Geelong’s City Hall and take over the organisation of the very successful Trivia Night in November which, in the past, has provided significant support for Libraries in Timor Leste and particularly those in Viqueque.
To support our engagement both in Timor Leste and in Geelong we aim to improve the Geelong-Viqueque Friendship Schools group’s use of social media. It is our hope to more effectively inform and engage with our supporters, both adult and student as well as Timorese and Australian.
The Language Project Agreement between Geelong Viqueque Friendship Schools and the Ministry of Education in Timor Leste was signed in August by Emidio Amaral, Director of Education Viqueque District and Antoninho Pires, Director General of Corporative Services. The project is being generously funded by a $120,000 donation by Geelong residents Gael and John Butler.
The project has three components, chief of which is the training of teachers by highly skilled providers who are based in Timor Leste. In January 2014 The Institute of Mary MacKillop will commence our first four day teacher training program in Viqueque. This program will concentrate on the teaching of Tetum.
Negotiations are being finalized with the Learning Resource Development Centre to conduct a five week program in one school using three trainers. This program will focus on pedagogy with intensive observation of classroom practice, review and suggestions. Discussion is also taking place with the Institute of Catholic Formation of Professors: Bacau Teachers College to expand our inferring in Viqueque.
Funds will also be used in the provision of additional resources to three pre-secondary schools for libraries and to cover their running costs over two years. Another special project is the rehabilitation of St Teresinha School in Ossu and an initial $10,000 has been provided towards roof restoration at the school.
21 Day Professional Development Program for Viqueque Principals & Teachers
A 21 day Professional Development Program was held in Geelong during 2012 for four principals and three teachers from Viqueque partner schools. The program focused on how schools are managed, good teaching practices and English as a Second Language. The program was funded by the East Timor Ministry of Education ($30,000) and the generous support of Geelong schools and supporters.
The main host for the event was Kardinia International College where the program ran for nine full days under the supervision of Geoff Woolard. Rob Blackley coordinated the four days at St Joseph’s College, with half days held at Torquay College, Sacred Heart College, Clonard College, Geelong College Preparatory School and Christian College. A one day visit to the East Geelong campus of the Gordon Institute completed the program venues.
Although the Viqueque principals and teachers at times were overwhelmed by the facilities and conditions of our schools they recognized that the basics for good education are universal. A number of organizational changes both in schools and in the classroom have been introduced into Viqueque schools as a consequence of the program.