Murayama Hyoe SJ (seminarian)
This year marks the 14th anniversary of Timor-Leste’s independence. Confronted now with various challenging issues regarding economy, social policy and education, Timor-Leste is shifting its political objective from “restoration” to “development,” and is trying to build a sustainable society and reduce poverty by promoting industries independent of other countries so as to create jobs.
Timor-Leste relies for most of its revenue on petroleum resources. The coffee industry is also famous, but other industries are very weak. There are thus two major challenges for the government. One is the labor market, where very young people, who account for about half of the population, will soon play a large role in the country’s future. The other challenge is the shortage of human resources and infrastructure in the educational institutions in which these young people should be educated.
There are also serious environmental issues. Because of facile slash-and-burn agricultural methods and unplanned deforestation, some mountains are barely green and are constantly exposed to the risk of landslides. Due to lack of awareness and knowledge of waste segregation and recycling, garbage disposal also leaves much room for improvement.
While the Timorese have a peaceful national character, laborers’ low level of morality in the workplace and the government’s lack of ability to solve it have been pointed out to explain why investments from abroad are scarce. In particular, as a result of expensive social security pensions paid unfairly to some veterans and their bereaved families, inadequate public budget allocations have been criticized as a form of corruption, which ironically inhibits the reduction of poverty. Even though the government must give priority to human resource development, the percentage given to health and education in the national budget is very low compared with that of ASEAN countries.
Additionally, there is a population explosion. Education faces a serious challenge. Timor-Leste children, raised by parents who were not blessed with opportunities for education and are affected by the current inadequate school system, are now urged to shoulder the burden of development.
The Colégio de Santo Inácio de Loiola [CSIL], founded 4 years ago, is trying to provide a higher quality of education to the children of this country, relying much on donations from abroad. With the help of scholarships and learning support before admission, students from the local village where CSIL is located are studying together with those from Dili, the capital. Because of the big difference in learning ability among the students, discernment and creativity are always needed. As one of the class teachers of degree 7, I accompany the children who will bear the burden of the future of this country by promoting learning partnership development among the students. When I see how they help each other in their studies, I find hope for the future of Timor-Leste.
The World Bank, Timor-Leste Social Assistance, Public Expenditure and Program Performance Report, 2013.