Subject: Lusa: School Year Begins - Brooms in Place of Pencils

East Timor: School Year Begins - Brooms in Place of Pencils 2 Oct-19:00

The school year began Monday for thousands of children in East Timor, with brooms largely taking the place of pencils in an education system forced to start virtually from scratch in the wake of the 1999 violence and destruction in the territory.

The return-to-school atmosphere was prevalent in almost all the schools visited Monday by Lusa, even though books, tables and chairs were lacking in most. National education authorities have said that this is "an emergency year" for the 200,000 primary and secondary school students.

Youths will also be faced with the task of learning Portuguese, the official language whose teaching was banned during the 24-year Indonesian occupation that ended a year ago.

Some 116 teachers of Portuguese have already been placed in schools in East Timor's 13 districts. The planned total of 150 will give classes to secondary school students and refresher courses to East Timorese primary school teachers, the Portuguese mission's education chief, Maria Jose Carrilho, told Lusa on Monday.

Other secondary school courses will for the time being continue to be given in the Bahasa Indonesia language, with books provided by the World Bank and due to arrive in mid-October. However, the curriculum does not include teaching of the language and history of Indonesia.

The system's 200,000 students and 5,000 teachers will have much more to do beyond the normal teaching-learning activities, for in many cases there are teachers and students but no school, or if so just the walls.

Monday activities included the presentation of teachers to students, composition of class rolls and continuation of cleanup work.

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