Monday Musing: Timor with Students

Feb 29, 2016 by

Happy Monday Everyone!

I returned last week from a trip to Timor-Leste with a group of 20 high school sophomores.  Timor is between Indonesia and Australia (see pics below) and just gained independence in 2002- therefore, it is one of the youngest nations in the world and a fascinating place to visit, study, and explore.  I first visited Timor last year with students and it is encouraging to see how much progress the country has made.  Although, the progress may not be recognizable to a first-time visitor as the struggles are so visible.

Most of the Timorese are subsistence farmers only raising what they and their families eat.  45% of the population is malnourished and 40% are illiterate.  Many children are “stunted”- meaning they do not grow as strong, tall, or healthy as they should be due to malnourishment as a child.  The country lacks basic electricity in many places, roads are slowly being paved, and some students walk 3-4 hours just to get to school.  They go to school for 4 hours so they can make the return journey home.  The average income for a person with a full-time job is $115 a month.  It is a world which many people from developed countries choose not to imagine.

Our students had the opportunity to meet with the Timor President’s Chief of Staff, the U.S. Ambassador to Timor, multiple NGO’s in the field, and freedom fighters who helped Timor gain independence.  We climbed Mt. Ramelau, snorkled off the coast of Atauro Island, and worked in villages with locals planting gardens for their community.  The students asked great questions, laughed with their Timorese peers at schools we visited, and were touched by the forgiving, peaceful spirits of the Timorese people.

This kind of experience is so important for students to have as they develop their own world views- what it means to be privileged, what is justice, and the basics needed for a life.  While not everyone can visit a place like Timor, these are the kinds of discussions that we can have in all of our classes.  It reminds me that we, educators (and society as a whole), have an obligation to remember that Maslow’s Hierarchy must always come before Bloom’s Taxonomy.  And, finally, this is the kind of trip that reminds me that the world is full of curiosity, wonder, and beauty in the most humble of places.

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1 Comment

  1. Mary Ann Keiser

    Thank you so much for sharing. What a wonderful and important trip. Your students are very lucky to have such an inspirational teacher. I am sure this visit has changed their lives.

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