April 2020

Timor Leste Scholarship program improves access to education

An educational scholarship program for secondary and tertiary students is continuing to improve access to education for young people in Timor Leste. The Good Samaritan Foundation Scholarship program is based in Railaco, a rural area about one hour by road from the capital Dili. It is a coffee-growing region, but most people live on their own small landholdings and survive through subsistence farming.

There is a Jesuit Mission in Railaco consisting of a church and a residence that also serves as a clinic, local meeting place and informal hostel for volunteers. Just behind this is the Jesuit high school. Nearby is a small preschool and a convent belonging to the Sisters of Saint Paul de Chartres.

Good Samaritan Sister Rita Hayes spent 15 years living in Railaco, where she established the scholarship program. Rita has more than 40 years’ experience in teaching and educational leadership roles in Australia and visits Railaco twice each year to meet with students, select new scholars, check on the progress of existing scholars and make scholarship payments.

Since the program’s inception, she has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations for buildings and scholarships, which has enabled students to graduate with degrees in courses such as engineering, teaching, health and tourism. 

The Executive Director of the Good Samaritan Foundation, Catherine Cresswell, said that thanks to Rita’s work, the foundation continues to receive donations for the program from many generous individuals and schools.

“In 2018 and 2019, I visited Railaco with Rita to review the program and assist Rita in finding a way to transition the program to local administration,” Catherine said. “The goal was to ensure the program was achieving the desired impact and could be sustained in the event that Rita could no longer personally travel to deliver the funds.”

After much discussion with local partners and stakeholders, an MoU (memorandum of understanding) was entered into with the Alola Foundation, a charity established by Kirsty Sword Gusmao, former first lady of Timor Leste. Alola has programs in rural and remote areas that support initiatives in education and maternal health and has a significant track record in scholarship management. Agreements were also made with the Jesuits at Railaco Mission to continue to play a role in supporting the program.

The Good Samaritan Foundation remains responsible for the overall program, including setting the scholarship selection criteria, approving recipients and liaising with the Jesuit community and Alola Foundation. 

The scholarship program has two offerings:

  • Scholarships for students at the Jesuit high school in Railaco.
  • Scholarships for students from the Railaco area to complete tertiary education at the public university in Timor Leste or the Jesuit teaching college.

The scholarship covers basic expenses. For high school students this is school fees and enrolment costs. For tertiary students it covers their university fees plus ‘Skripsi’, which is a fee they pay to submit their final thesis, and a one-off compulsory building fund, payable on graduation.

From 2020, the new tertiary scholars will also receive a monthly allowance of $30. More than 130 tertiary and secondary students will receive scholarships this year.

The Alola Foundation will review and monitor the students’ academic progress and provide support to students during their studies. The foundation will administer funds to the students and ensure they are used as intended.

The role of the Railaco Jesuit community will be:

  • Tertiary scholars – distribute the application forms to students graduating from the Jesuit high school. Recommend the students most eligible, based on the criteria supplied by the Good Samaritan Foundation. (Scholarship recipients must have an offer to the public university in Timor Leste or the Jesuit teaching college.) Provide formation activities for the scholars, in Railaco.
  • Secondary scholars – distribute application forms. Scholars to be recommended by the head of Jesuit high school.

“With the new arrangements in place we are confident this program will continue as an enduring gift for the people of Timor Leste and specifically, those from the Railaco area,” Catherine said.

If you would like to support the ministries of the Sisters of the Good Samaritan you are welcome to make a donation via the Good Samaritan Foundation. Donations over $2 are tax deductible.


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