It has been more than one year since the new secondary school in Vemasse, Baucau District, was completed and inaugurated through the support of the Local Development Fund.
The Local Development Programme (LDP) was introduced by the Government of Timor-Leste in 2004 with UNCDF and UNDP technical assistance and key financial contribution from the Government of Timor-Leste itself, Irish Aid and Norway.
Until 2009 in the 11,000 people Sub-District students were facing many logistical problems to continue their studies, since the same old building was used for both primary and secondary school, resulting in complex rotations and often exclusion of students.
“There is no other secondary school in the area, and this is why our Suco decided to submit a specific project proposal to the Sub-District Committee. - says the Vemasse Suco Chief - Often families were forced to send their children to Baucau and Dili for alternative opportunities, but in many cases this was not sustainable, and students preferred to come back to their villages and become farmers instead”.
Members of the Suco’s community were asked to recommend one project out of three proposals, before officially submitting it to the Sub-District Development Committee (SDDC) and, ultimately, the Baucau District Assembly. The Assembly endorsed the project, that was finally approved by the Ministry of State Administration at the end of 2009.
“I remember that the other 2 proposals were both on irrigation, - explains the Vemasse District Development Officer - but the day villages had to cast their vote, they had no hesitation to prioritize the school, because education was felt as more important and strategic”.
During the Portuguese and Indonesian occupation, as the community members still clearly remember, there were no opportunities for the Vemasse population to receive a secondary level education. Today, the school represents a reference for 7 Sucos, and it has more than 200 students.
“A country with no education and with no intellectuals is a country with no future, and now that we are independent we are fully responsible for this” - stresses the Suco Chief. The project, which only cost $ US 36,000, had a major impact on the quality of the education provided. With the old buildings, there was an average of 55 students per class, which has now dropped to 22. In the past, this unsustainable situation had also led some teachers to leave and look for other opportunities in other Districts.