IMAGINE a primary school where over a thousand students had to share just 8 classrooms - forcing them to attend in shifts so everyone could learn. Unfortunately that is the harsh reality in some primary schools in East Timor.
That's the challenge that Aimutin Escola Primária, a school in East Timor's capital Dili, faces every day. With 18 teachers taking shifts to work together, there are simply not enough resources, teachers, classrooms and facilities to service the school population.
Enter the Timor-Leste Partnership Project – a collaboration between Scouts in Australia and Timor-Leste, Rotary Clubs in Dili and Australia , and the Centenary of Canberra's "Dollars for Dili" campaign. Whilst being an alliance between these organisations, it has also been a partnership between Australian and Timorese young people from Scouts and Rotaract.
A core part of the project is Timor-Leste Scouts and Rotaract taking a major part in identifying different schools in the area to find one that could benefit most from the aid, and then bringing in their Australian counterparts to help in the service on the ground.
The Timor-Leste Ministry of Education in Dili is also involved.
Twenty three year old Rover Scout Lauren Tubby from says that the project has made an enormous difference to the school.
"It was a fantastic project where we were able to work together with the local Scouts and have created strong bonds together. I'd totally do it again and recommend it to others to do,' she said. "It's great to see the work we could do for the school and lovely to see how much they appreciated it."
Lauren joined Rovers from New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland and Western Australia and Rotarians to travel to Timor-Leste in July, with funding from Dubbo South Rotary Club, the ACT Government's 'Dollars for Dili' campaign and Scouts Australia as well as a significant financial contribution from each of the team members.
The scheme is also supported in Dili by Toll Remote Logistics, Scouts Timor-Leste, the Timor-Leste Ministry of Education and the local Rotaract and Rotary Clubs of Dili.
The project has been working to improve the school's health and sanitation, where there are currently only four toilets servicing the entire school's population. The project has signed on a local contractor to build another eight toilet cubicles for the school to improve the school's situation.
2012 Project Manager and Victorian Rover Nicole Strachan says that the project was a brilliant opportunity to provide service with the inspiration Timorese youth.
"To extend who you are through the provision of service was an amazing experience. The friendships forged are lifelong and the opportunity to help develop one of the most beautiful nations will be with you forever. I cannot wait to share this project with new rovers and rotaractors next year.