Subject: Timor Aid: Do You Know How To Speak English?

Timor Aid: Do You Know How To Speak English?

By Sarah Francis

Timor Aid's English classes, a part of its institutional capacity building project, have had widespread benefits in East Timor's district of Oecusse. The classes were held in late 2006 for a period of four months. After completing placement tests a total of 120 participants learnt correct English grammar and spelling, practiced English conversation and were trained in public speaking.

The English classes are a component of Timor Aid's Institutional Capacity Building Program, which has been running since early 2006. The project is funded by the European Commission, HORIZONT3000, Dreikoenigsaktion Austria and the Austrian Development Agency and is managed by Timor Aid, East Timor's leading national development organisation. It is one of 10 projects currently being managed by Timor Aid, which has development projects in the areas of community development, health, education, capacity building, income generation and agriculture.

The program provides training to the staff of East Timorese non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in order to decrease their dependency on foreign institutions and experts, and thus increase their capacity to effectively manage the future development of their nation. To date, staff from approximately 560 national and local NGOs, community-based organisations and youth organisations in four districts of East Timor have benefited from this program. Basic training is offered in computer skills, language and administration, and advanced training topics include organizational management and project design and implementation. Beneficiaries are expected to share their newly acquired skills with colleagues to increase the overall reach of the program.

Gil Elias da Costa was the English class teacher for Oecusse's Institutional Capacity Building Program. He studied English in Indonesia and then in the Seminary Maior for five years in Dili, he took a course for six months in the United States of America and more recently worked as a cross-cultural trainer for American volunteers working in East Timor. These experiences have contributed to his proficiency in English and his patience and professionalism as a teacher. Since the conclusion of the classes he has gained employment with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) as the assistant of the resource centre coordinator.

Sitting at his desk in Oecusse's UNDP office, Gil talks about his experience of being Timor Aid's English teacher.

"It was my first time teaching older people and I learnt many things from them. I studied many materials which helped me with my English teaching. The students were very enthusiastic and actively participated; they even did all their homework! Sometimes I was very tired from so many hours of teaching, but overall we didn't experience any problems. After the conclusion of the course UNMIT (the United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste) asked me to identify participants who had excelled. I recommended 12 people and they were given jobs as interpreters with the United Nations."

They were not the only participants who directly benefited from the project. According to Timor Aid's Oecusse District Coordinator Fabiao de Oliveira, 15 percent of participants gained employment after the English classes. A further five percent received scholarships to study overseas, and other participants are paid to teach English in their villages.

The project has had a positive impact on Oecusse so far. Gil says, "I'd like to see the program extended to include new participants. We've put in a request for funding and we're waiting to hear back about it." Gil's hopes for the future are simple enough, "I want to be a good, professional teacher for my students," and while he may not realise it, his attitude and manner demonstrate that he is well on the way to achieving this goal.

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