Subject: East Timorese Network of Popular Educators

Rede dos Educadores Populares Timor Lorosae

La o Hamutuk, Farol Dili

Contact: Nuno Rodrigues Telephone: 0407-609-488 or 0408-811-373

Press Release 9 August 2001

Nine East Timorese organizations have formed the East Timorese Network of Popular Educators (Rede dos Educadores Populares Timor Lorosa'e). The formation of this network grows from the recognition of the critical role of education in the process of East Timorese democratization.

Why popular education ? Popular education as practice is not new to East Timor. In fact, the 1975 generation was inspired by the methods of Paolo Freire and popular education was carried out in the form of literacy classes, cooperatives, crèches (day schools), development of traditional remedies and other social activities which the Indonesian invasion stopped and destroyed.

Political independence has been achieved, but has not yet guaranteed the same learning opportunities to all people. The majority of the population was marginalized during Indonesia s occupation and during this transitional period, there has not yet been significant change. The formal education that now exists is a legacy of the Portuguese and Indonesian systems and does not include liberating principles. The goal of popular education is to empower all people to be able to participate in decision making processes. Popular education is a collective act, not an individual one.

The formation of the Popular Educators Network has been sparked by an exchange between Brazil and East Timor. From 17 June to 17 July, eleven East Timorese traveled to Brazil to participate in an exchange which focused on popular education. The Brazil-East Timor Popular Education Exchange was started a year ago when two popular educators from Brazil visited East Timor.

Brazil is renown for its history of effective models of popular education and community organizing. For many years, popular education has been used in Brazil as an important tool for social transformation. The following are some of the valuable lessons learned by the group in Brazil which relate to popular education work:

* It is critical that local poor communities take the initiative to develop the programs they identify as needed by their own communities.

* NGOs in East Timor must develop a strong relationship with mass organizations. The programs of NGOs must be designed and formalized by the people they serve and they should be part of social movements that will develop alternative and appropriate methods of development, such as organic agriculture, alternative health and ecological tourism.

* The Churches in East Timor have a critical role in organizing the people, not only in providing spiritual guidance. The Church lives through its members.

* Women and men must work together in the struggle for women s rights and an end to women s subordination.

* The unfair distribution of land could well be a major problem in the area of national development. Agrarian reform must be introduced.

* Popular education begins with practical activities that directly respond to poor people s needs. These practical tools, which our group studied, include knowing how to make soap from native ingredients, breed bees for honey, develop natural remedies, physical therapy and water conservation.

From the experiences with popular education techniques that we gathered in Brazil, we form the Rede dos Educadores Populares. This network represents a commitment to a collective process to strengthen popular education methods as a tool for social transformation in East Timor.

We thank our friends in Brazil from so many different organizations for their assistance in making this exchange so valuable and productive. We also thank OxFam Australia, UNDP and Grassroots International for their financial support of the Brazil - East Timor Exchange on Popular Education.

Grupo Alfabetização Naroman

Grupo Nove Nove Fokupers

Haburas Foundation

Institutu Sekular Maun Alin iha Kristu ISMAIK

La o Hamutuk

Prontu Atu Servi

Organização Popular da Mulher Timorense - OPMT

Sa he Institute for Liberation

Yayasan HAK

La'o Hamutuk The East Timor Institute for Reconstruction Monitoring and Analysis Instituto Timor Lorosa'e ba Analiza no Monitor Reconstrusaun PO Box 340, Dili, East Timor (via Darwin, Australia) Mobile 61-408-811373 ; Land phone 670-390-325-013 Email:
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