Timor-Leste is a young country and a country of young. More than half of its population is children under 18, or more than 60 percent are young people under 25. A successful investment in the potential of young people is crucial for the socio-economic development, achievement of MDGs, and peace and stability of Timor-Leste.
It would therefore be natural that the Government selected Human Resource Development as one of their National Priorities, and focused on the issues of basic education, vocational training and youth participation.
Challenges in Education Sector
Definitely, positive steps have been taken in those areas. However, there are still a number of challenges. About 20 percent of school-aged children are not enrolled in primary schools and less than half of children complete 6th grade. Eventually, only 12 percent of the girls and 18 percent of the boys complete secondary schools. These figures are far away from MDGs 2 and 3. Enrolling all girls and boys in primary schools, keeping them and helping them to complete 6th grade and move on to the secondary education continues to be the biggest challenge in the education sector. Improving the quality of education is an integral part of this challenge.
The approval of the Base Law for Education last year, ensuring all children 9 years of free basic education, demonstrates the Government’s commitment to the rights of all children. However, the gap between the current situation and the fulfillment of the educational right of young people remains significant.
For these challenges, UN is supporting the government in developing 9 years of basic education curriculum both in Tetun and Portuguese and provide support for school feeding, water and sanitation, and school gardening. We will also support the Government in providing ‘second chance’ opportunity for out of school youth, like the literacy and basic education equivalence programmes, including literacy classes, civic education, life skills, reproductive health and population issues.
Human resource development for employment
On the issue of preparing young people for the labour market, the creation of the National Labour Force Development Institute (INDMO) demonstrates the Government's commitment to a market-orientated, efficient and accountable training system. The training institutions in the country, however, can offer only entry level skills training. The challenge, therefore, is to provide basic skills training locally while building partnerships with the industry and facilitate international training at higher levels.
Challenges related to Youth participation
On youth participation, historically, the young people of Timor-Leste demonstrated their potential for civic engagement in campaigning for independence and supporting elections. However, they are frustrated because of lack of mechanisms to constructively engage in the society and air their voices.
Therefore, realizing the nation’s vision for the “Youth Parliament”, which is a part of National Priority #3, is a major step towards more meaningful & effective participation of Timorese youth. We will provide technical and financial support for the Youth Parliament as well as support for promotion of sports & culture, provision of learning opportunities, and strengthening the function and out-reach of youth centers to sub-districts and sucos .
Ladies and gentlemen, engaging young people and empowering them is an urgent task for this nation, as they are growing now and many more are coming in. It will require substantial resources and focused and concerted efforts of all partners.
Image added by ETLJB: A school in Fatu-Ahi, East Timor.