Aileu Science and Technology Institute (ASTI) and the Rai Husar Foundation
(Chris Adams, Friends of Aileu)
The District of Aileu, while not far from Dili, has for long been regarded as a relatively disadvantaged area in terms access to education and training, resulting in poor educational and employment outcomes. The majority of Aileu district’s 50,000 people live, not in the small town area of Aileu or its nearby river-valley communities, but in a large number of small hamlets spread out over the 730 km2 of mostly remote mountainous areas. Most people have poor access to markets and government services and have very limited cash income. Many families find it difficult to ensure all their children complete school, let alone access higher education opportunities mostly concentrated in Dili.
Some younger generation leaders in the Aileu community established the Rai Husar Foundation in 2011 to promote social, economic and cultural life in the District. “Rai Husar” meaning “Navel of the Land”, refers to Aileu’s centrality within the wider area’s traditional Mambai language and cultural community. One of the first initiatives of the Rai Husar Foundation was the establishment of the not-for-profit Aileu Science and Technology Institute (ASTI) which aims to provide quality tertiary education and training. One of ASTI’s founders who will be familiar to many Australians is the musician, environmentalist and educator, Ego Lemos.
Rai Husar Foundation is registered as a non-government organisation with the Timor-Leste Ministry of Justice. The Aileu Science and Technology Institute has an Advisory Board of eminent persons from Aileu and elsewhere in Timor-Leste, is registered with the Ministry of Education, and is gaining full accreditation as a tertiary institute and accreditation of its courses.
Development of ASTI
ASTI has 32 hectares of land at Hundolte, Aileu Vila, which it has commenced developing for its future campus. Meanwhile ASTI is operating from a former government building in Aileu’s main street.
ASTI offers both formal and non-formal education, with academic and practical studies, including sustainable agriculture, business administration, English, IT-Mathematics, Carpentry, Welding and Mechanics. In 2014 its 18 full time and 49 part time staff catered for a total enrolment of 145 students, with plans to enrol an additional 50 students per year.
ASTI establishment greatly improves access to tertiary studies in Aileu, adding to the opportunities provided by the Crystal Institute, which has been operating in Aileu for the past few years, mostly with weekend classes and part time staff from Dili.
Sustainable agriculture initiatives
ASTI plans to establish a teaching and demonstration permaculture garden on its land in Aileu town. The site, however, lacks a suitable water supply and Ego Lemos has asked Friends of Aileu to consider providing funding assistance for the provision of water supply infrastructure. Details of the water supply system design and an associated budget are currently being resolved, and are expected to b e provided to Friends of Aileu in the near future.
In the meantime, a group of ASTI students are working with the Aileu University Students Association and Aileu Rotaract to develop a trial permaculture garden on some other land to which they have been given temporary access. This site is just out of town and immediately adjacent to the river making water supply relatively simple during even during the upcoming dry season.
A CERES Global study tour group has been involved with the ASTI and the other Aileu groups in the early planning for these permaculture initiatives and intends to work alongside them in a collaborative development of the trial garden site during CERES next visit planned for mid-2015. This hands-on trial will provide valuable learning to support the subsequent development of the more permanent garden on the ASTI site.
Other ASTI priorities
ASTI has identified some other priorities for Friends of Aileu and CERES to consider supporting. These include:
- Computers (PCs, Laptops)
- LCD Projector
- Books and Other Materials for Library
- Wi-Fi internet for Campus.
Updates on the permaculture garden water supply system proposal and these other ASTI priorities will be available following the visits to Aileu by the Project Officer in April and by CERES Global in the following months.