New Beginnings in Timor-Leste
Improving educational standards in Timor-Leste is vital for its future success.
Scott A. Woodward calls his photographic style “Choose Your Own Adventure Photography” after books he read as a child. For him, serendipity is the beauty of photography. Literally and creatively, he can go in one direction and discover a remarkable photographic opportunity, or he can take another and find something entirely different.
Timor-Leste is a young country with a young population. Colonized by the Portuguese in the 16th century and invaded by Indonesia in the 1970s, it finally claimed control of its own territory in 1999 after a long and bitter war. Formal establishment of the new state followed in 2002.
At least half of the country’s population of 1.17 million has been born since it regained its sovereignty, giving the country a median age of 18.4 years and making education a priority.
One of the country’s biggest post-independence successes is an 85% primary school enrollment rate, especially considering that around nine-tenths of Timor-Leste’s education infrastructure was in ruins by 1999.
But much remains to be done. Most children don’t start school until six or seven, and nearly two-thirds suffer from malnutrition. Only 37% go on to secondary school.
The country is home to a host of languages – five Papuan and 22 Austronesian. While that’s good for diversity, it’s not good for schooling.
Many children find themselves with teachers who speak another language from them. Four out of ten can’t read a single word after two years of primary school.
Text and photographs by Scott Woodward
A young girl outside her village home near Dili.
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