Timor is a small country that has achieved its independence after having suffered many human losses. During the Indonesian occupation, education was largely provided by Indonesian teachers. When the country came to independence it had no trained native teachers to teach. From its inhabitants arose the initiative to organize the children and teach them with volunteers who acted as teachers, but without qualifications.

Young people are currently studying and preparing as qualified teachers, but for the time being, most teaching continues with volunteer “teachers”. Consequence of this situation is that it is taught but, without quality, methodology and without adequate content.

Faced with this situation in the country, the challenges to our evangelizing education are: teacher training, educating for peace and non-violence, educating in truth, educating in gender equality, educating for the care of the environment and working with families.

It is urgent to raise the level of education and give quality to teacher training. It is for us a challenge to which every year we try to respond with the means we have, including taking advantage of the presence of volunteers.

Another consequence of this current system of “volunteer teachers” is that children do not develop many important skills for their evolutionary process: art, creativity, research, teamwork …

We have few means but we try to respond to these gaps with extracurricular activities: dance, English, computer science (they have donated 10 computers not new from Australia), choir, physical education, garden.

Another dimension that we work on and is always a challenge for us is to educate for peace, in nonviolence.

It is a daily work to sensitize children and teachers motivating for respect, to know how to listen to different opinions, communicate without violence and correct students in a positive way.

Over the years we have made progress in educating about gender equality. It is not easy because of the social and cultural context, but we are taking significant steps.

Another challenge we have is to educate to speak and live in truth, without hiding information/actions. It is not easy because it involves a lot of attention to children, listening and understanding their situations, understanding what they live and giving value to their true sharing.

In all our challenges also enters the concern to take care of the environment. We have to sensitize children and their parents to protect the trees, not burn the land, burn the garbage and make a sustainable crop. We also respond to this challenge with the “Small Farmers” project.

Work with families is pending. We want them to be an active part in the education of their children: to educate in values, in truth, in non-violence, in working with others. We have work to do.

As a backdrop is the work on values. Every year we work with a motto that motivates us and helps us to deepen different values. This year we have chosen Responsibility with the motto “Learning and teaching with the heart”

As Handmaids of the Sacred Heart in Timor, it is both a challenge and a joy for us to collaborate in the development of education in Timor with the characteristics of our way of educating “The Pedagogy of the Heart”. Our action is not limited to the formal education that exists in Bazartete. In the communities of Dili and Kasait, we have non-formal education projects with school supports and other activities.

María Llano, aci