12.09.2013 - UNESCO Office in Jakarta

Timor-Leste Celebrates International Literacy Day 2013

The Ministry of Education of Timor-Leste commemorates International Literacy Day 2013 on the global theme of “Literacies for the 21st Century”. The event was organized by the National Directorate for Recurrent Education (NDRE) on 9 September 2013 at the Auditorium of NDRE in Dili, Timor-Leste.

Approximately 200 participants mostly from the Ministry of Education, comprising of different Directorate heads and key staffs, attended the commemoration. Also present were development partners and other Government agencies relevant to the celebration. The Ministry of Education high officials were present to partake in the commemoration led by no other than the Minister of Education, His Excellency Minister Bendito dos Santos Freitas together with his three (3) Vice Ministers: HE Vice Minister Dulce Soares (Pre-School and Basic Education); HE Vice Minister Virgilio Simith (Secondary Education); and, HE Vice Minister Marçal Avelino Ximenes (Higher Education). The event was also attended by HE Antonio Ximenes, who is a member of the Committee F on Education of the National Parliament.

In his speech, the Minister of Education opened the event by highlighting that UNESCO declared 8 September as International Literacy Day with the objective to raise awareness on the importance of literacy. He stressed that “the index of literate citizens of a country is one of the most important indicators of their level of development”. He also mentioned that since 2007, the Ministry of Education has implemented an active policy to eradicate illiteracy and is striving to achieve the goal to eliminate illiteracy in Timor-Leste by 2015. This goal “can only be achieved with a continuous and active national campaign to eradicate illiteracy and the implementation of programmes and activities that see those illiterate members of the society being able to read, write and comprehend”.

The programme for the half day commemoration included a presentation from the National University of Timor-Leste who shared a research study on past and current literacy initiatives in Timor-Leste. This is a very good opportunity for all the participants present, since it outlined the history of literacy initiatives during the time of the occupation until the present. The presentation provided the participants with knowledge on the role of literacy in national development. The presentation became a tool for raising awareness of the key officials present on the significant role of literacy in the progress of the country.

Other presentations include the sharing of the experiences of development partners in working towards contributing to the eradication of illiteracy in Timor-Leste. Notably the Cuban Cooperation Programme has made a significant contribution through its national literacy campaign which has been implemented for nearly 5 years in Timor-Leste, and has resulted in several districts declared as free of illiteracy. A local NGO called Fundasaun Krsital likewise shared their experiences in implementing literacy activities with the Ministry of Education and other partners. Fundasaun Krsital also provided recommendations on how to strengthen effectiveness of literacy programmes. Dr. Anwar Al-Said, Head of the Education of UNESCO Office, Jakarta, underlined that UNESCO will continue to support the National Directorate for Recurrent Education, Ministry of Education, in addressing the literacy issue and access to quality non-formal and informal education for all citizens of the country within the framework of the Capacity Development for Education for All (CapEFA) Timor-Leste programme.

The main highlights of the celebration were the awarding of certificates of recognition to 7 District Coordinators of the National Directorate for Recurrent Education which are declared as free of illiteracy to acknowledge the efforts of the Districts and their personnel in implementing the national literacy campaign. Other important highlights were short remarks from Ms. Lúcia Corte-Real and Mr. Jose Mendonça from the District of Dili who represent adults who have graduated from the literacy programme and can now read and write.

The commemoration was also capped by brief remarks made by a member of the National Parliament, HE Antonio Ximenes, who mentioned that indeed, Timor-Leste has a high number of illiterate people which is a big challenge. He emphasized that the Parliament is aware of this issue and is keen to address it by looking into the resources needed to provide literacy and educational access for all.

HE Vice Minister Dulce Soares closed the commemoration by underlining that the literacy issue should be addressed continuously in order to achieve the strategic goal of the Ministry of Education to eradicate illiteracy by 2015. The commemoration raised awareness on the urgent need to intensively eradicate the high number of illiteracy in the country.

For further information please contact: Dr. Anwar Al-Said (Head of the Education Unit, UNESCO Office, Jakarta, a.alsaid@unesco.org).

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