Los! Hau Bele! -- `Yo! Si Puedo' comes to Timor Leste: Cuba assists the eradication of illiteracy

By Bob Boughton

In Timor Leste [East Timor], which is one of the world’s newest countries and Australia’s poorest Asia-Pacific neighbour, Cuba is delivering an educational aid program which aims to eradicate illiteracy, currently affecting nearly 50% of the adult population, within a period of less than 10 years. The Timor Leste national literacy campaign, utilising the Cuban-developed Yo! Si Puedo (Yes! I can) audiovisual teaching method, opened its first classes in the capital Dili in June 2007.

Eighteen months later, by December 2008, nearly 18,000 adults had completed a course of 65 lessons, led by local village monitors who work under the close supervision of 36 Cuban education advisers deployed throughout the country. If it continues at this rate, the literacy campaign can be expected to have a major impact on the stabilisation and development of Timor Leste, providing a model for other Pacific countries struggling to overcome their educational disadvantage.

This paper, based on an ongoing evaluation being undertaken as part of a larger Australian Research Council project on adult education in Timor Leste, describes the origins and development of the program and the work of the Cuban advisers. It reviews the achievements to date, and compares the Cubans' work with education aid projects sponsored by other donor countries and international agencies. The paper concludes by reviewing the challenges the Cubans still face in assisting Timor Leste to overcome the problem of illiteracy.

The paper has been posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with Bob Boughton's permission. Bob Boughton is an associate professor at the University of New England in Australia.

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