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SCU staff help East Timorese school students


25 October 2004
An East Timorese school, which has no running water and only a generator for electricity, has received a boost thanks to staff and students at Southern Cross University.

A small group of SCU staff at the Coffs Harbour and Lismore campuses have been contributing to an Atauro Island school fund for the last two years and recently were able to donate $2500 to enable the Pala Sekolah Dasar school at Biquele to buy chairs and tables for the students. The group has previously donated $1000 for class room supplies.

The primary school is located on Atauro Island, about four hours from Dili, the capital of East Timor. Coffs Harbour campus library manager Judy Hibberd recently travelled to East Timor where she met with the school principal, Senor Lorenzo.

“He walked 14 kilometres to meet us as we were unable to get to the school in the time we had on Atauro. He has been teaching for 17 years under extremely adverse circumstances. Our meeting was facilitated by Gabrielle Samson, an Australian early childhood teacher, who runs a non-government organisation, Roman Luan, on the island. Gabrielle translated for us and funds will be channelled through Roman Luan to the school in future,” Ms Hibberd said.

“The school has power by a generator but they don’t have the ability to run that for very long. There’s about six teachers and when I was there up to approximately 300 students. They also don’t have access to a basic water supply, they have to draw their water up from a well.”

She said SCU staff had decided to help the school after East Timor achieved independence in 2002.

“We basically just thought we ought to do something. Providing basic education and good health care is a major problem.”

Staff have been making tax-deductible donations via the international aid organisation Compassion and are now seeking additional support from staff, students and members of the public.

Anyone interested in joining the program can contact Lorraine Waller at the SCU Coffs Harbour campus on 66593377.

Photo caption: Judy Hibberd, left, meets with represetentatives of the Atauro school at the Roman Luan headquarters.

Media contact: Brigid Veale, SCU Media Liaison, 66593006 or m. 0439 680 748.