Subject: KY: East Timorese children to start new school year

East Timorese children to start new school year

BANGKOK, Sept. 29 (Kyodo) -- East Timorese children begin on Monday next week their first school year since the formerly Indonesia-ruled territory was laid waste last year by departing Indonesian soldiers and anti-independence militias.

U.N. officials in Dili, East Timor's capital, said some 200,000 students and 5,000 teachers from primary and secondary schools will resume classes using the same curriculum as last year with two notable exceptions -- the exclusion of the Indonesian language and Indonesian history.

After 24 years of Indonesian rule, the East Timorese people voted overwhelmingly on Aug. 30, 1999 for independence in a U.N.-organized referendum.

During the post-referendum violence and destruction, about 90% of school buildings were destroyed or badly damaged.

Officials said about 300 have been rehabilitated so far, but hundreds more are structurally unsound and need to be demolished.

The World Bank in June committed $13.9 million for an Emergency School Readiness Project aimed at enabling all children aged six to 15 to have access to schools at a ''basic operational level'' as soon as possible.

The one-year project aims to have 2,100 classrooms ready by the year-end.

Japan, among other donors, gave $1.23 million in July through the U.N. Children's Fund for rehabilitation of school buildings.

U.N. officials said 150 Portuguese teachers arrived in East Timor earlier this week and will be deployed in all 13 districts to teach Portuguese in secondary schools.

The East Timorese leadership has opted for Portuguese, the language of its former colonial ruler, as an official language.

East Timor's only university, meanwhile, is due to reopen in October with a skeleton staff, while Japan, the Ford Foundation and Caritas Norway have undertaken to support the return of East Timorese students to Indonesian universities to complete their studies.

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