Subject: Tutor delays adieu to Alieu

Hume Moreland Leader (Australia)

November 19, 2003 Wednesday

Tutor delays adieu to Alieu

By Rachel Kleinman

IT IS only 47km south of Dili but it takes 90 minutes to reach East Timor's mountainous district of Alieu by car.

Crammed into a local bus alongside people, goats and roosters, the journey can take up to 2 1/2 hours.

In Alieu, which is home to 36,000 people, there is no telephone system or e-mail and electricity only between 6pm and midnight.

This is where Vicki Day has called home for the past 18 months, teaching English and working in community development.

She could have returned home to Western Australia after 12 months but decided to stay for another year.

Ms Day's position is jointly funded by Hume and Moreland councils as part of their 10-year friendship city agreement with Alieu.

They pay $12,000 a year for her placement through Australian Volunteers International.

Three mornings a week, she teaches English to final-year high school students aged between 18 and 22.

Many have not finished school because of disruption to their education during East Timor's 1999 upheaval, when many schools were burnt down.

Ms Day said some schools in the district were still without roofs and were structurally unsound.

"They are in urgent need of rehab and it is actually quite dangerous for kids to be playing around them," she said.

She also teaches government staff from the district administration and works on community development.

In a country where a get-together can sometimes resemble high noon at the Tower of Babel, Ms Day has plenty of opportunities to indulge her fascination with languages.

She said there were more than 30 languages in East Timor, many of them specific to isolated regions.

So it is not uncommon for one person's dialect to be incomprehensible to a person from another district.

But the biggest project of Ms Day's placement is the Andy Ingham scholarship scheme, set up through Hume and Moreland councils, in which eight young people are studying at university in Dili.

"With $1000, you can give someone a four-year degree. It only costs $225 a year," she said.

"Having a degree could mean everything to them.

"If you live in the districts, there are no opportunities, you are either a subsistence farmer or you work for the government.

"These kids are so bright and so willing to learn. It is about giving them a future."


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