New School Project Underway!

Maumeta School is a government primary/junior high school in Vila, the main village on Atauro Island which is off the coast from Dili. There are 604 students (283 female and 321 male).  The school has 5 buildings with 3 classrooms each, however 2 buildings are badly damaged and shouldn’t be used (although one is).   It has two toilet buildings (one 8 toilets and the other 4 toilets) neither of which are operating which means there are no toilets or running water at all for the school.

The school runs 2 shifts a day (one morning and one afternoon which is normal in Timor because of overcrowding) but also don’t have enough chairs and tables even for the classrooms that are operating.

Atauro is definitely the most beautiful location we’ve built a school in to date.  It’s off the coast from Dili and is just 25km long with a mountainous interior and a narrow coastal plain and is home to about 10,000 people.  Most of those people are subsistence farmers and fishermen living in small villages linked by a dirt road or walking paths and its isolation from the rest of Timor (3 hours by ferry or 45 mins by speed boat) contributes to the extreme poverty. The island is incredibly beautiful with fabulous diving and snorkelling.

We’ve consulted with the government and the community about this school and what is needed is a new 4 classroom building plus the repair of the toilets and more school furniture.  The government has the school on their critical list, but has no ability to do any work there in the foreseeable future.  As well as Agostinho (our project manager) we also had an Australian who owns the ecotourism lodge on Atauro look at the school for us. He’s is an ex school principal and this is what he had to say:

“There are very strong trade winds blowing and some of the structural timber in the roofing is rotted out. There is no ceiling whatsoever as the leaking, rusty tin roof has destroyed it. Despite its state of disrepair, the classrooms continue to be used daily. Furthermore, the foundation of the building has major cement cancer, cracking and weakness due to the use of beach sand in the initial construction of the building and the level of salt content in the cement. They are still actually using the 4 classroom space but explain they don’t feel safe! I agree and wouldn’t want my boys in that space especially as there is a lot of wind and the timber looks rotted out in places.”

A builder we’ve worked with before has quoted USD71,000 (approx AUD90,000) (this is a good price considering that all materials and most of the tradespeople have to be brought from the mainland).  We’ve raised the money from a collection of Spend it Well donors, some who’ve worked with us before and some who are new to what we do.

The First Stone Ceremony was held on the weekend, a broken down building has been removed to make space and construction is underway.   We’re very excited to get this project underway.