Timor-Leste is the youngest country in Asia, which gained independence in 2002. Since April 2000, before its independence, JICA has been assisting in Timor-Leste’s national development. Over the following 20 years, Timor-Leste entered a period of reconstruction, forming the foundation of the country, and is now embarking on a period of development, extending economic growth and stability in daily life for all citizens.
Though there is support for a wide range of fields, the development of human resources responsible for nation building has been the most important priority among the forms of assistance extended by JICA. We look back at the progress of co-operation in the area of human resources development in order to enhance higher education, including teacher training at the Faculty of Engineering, Science and Technology (FoEST) of the National University of Timor-Leste (UNTL).
The new building of FoEST-UNTL, was completed in January 2020 with the support of the Government of Japan. As the country’s only national university’s engineering faculty, it is Timor-Leste’s core of human resource development in technology.
Passing on Knowledge and Experience Gained Over 20 years
“There is a strong sense of awareness that ‘we are building our own country’, and UNTL instructors are very enthusiastic about communicating the knowledge and experience they have gained over the past two decades to students,” Professor Shimakawa Koichi describes their ambition and enthusiasm. Shimakawa is Professor Emeritus at Gifu University, who has been teaching at FoEST-UNTL as an expert in electronics and electrical engineering since 2003. “For example, faculty members who have studied in Japan are voluntarily introducing a seminar-type of graduation thesis guidance. This is something that has never been done before at universities in Timor-Leste,” he adds.
In 2001, JICA began renovating facilities at FoEST-UNTL. The new faculty building was completed in January 2020. Today, JICA’s support for students and instructors continues, including the dispatch of Japanese experts and interns.
UNTL’s Dean of FoEST, Dr Ruben Jeronimo Freitas, who lectures at the Electronics and Electrical Engineering Department has also received direct guidance from JICA experts.
“In addition to improving the abilities of FoEST instructors, the results of JICA’s assistance, such as improving curriculum and the quality of education methods, are very significant,” says Dr Freitas. “Professor Shimakawa taught us not to expect any sudden big change, but to aim for substantial improvement little by little. I remember him saying many times the Japanese phrase chotto chotto [little, little],” he added with a smile.
Nurturing Human Resources at the Ports and Harbours — The Lifeline of the Country
The new ferry terminal in the capital city of Dili was completed with the support of the Government of Japan. Two vessels can be berthed at the same time and it can operate 24 hours a day.
For Timor-Leste, an island country that depends heavily on imports for many of its daily necessities, port development is an important issue. While JICA is focusing on the infrastructure development of port and harbour facilities, it is also focusing on the development of relevant human resources.
Mr Jose Madeira Marques, Vice President of the Port Authority (APORTIL), which manages port operations including Dili Port, is one such specialist. He visited Japan as a participant of a JICA training programme in 2007, when he was a member of the National Maritime Transport Authority (DNTM), and learned the basics of ship safety for approximately four months. After returning to his home country, he continued to study at JICA seminars and other events even after he assumed the role of director for port maintenance.
“It was Mr Marques who asked me questions very enthusiastically from the beginning of the session. Thinking more questions will be asked in-depth during the following session, I set up a time for individual explanations just for him,” says JICA Expert Sasa Kenji, who served as a lecturer at a seminar attended by Mr Marques.
Subsequently, Mr Marques and Mr Kenji cooperated to implement port development projects, and now they are responsible for overseeing and supervising the “JICA Project on Strategic Port Development Master Plan in Timor-Leste.” The two play a leading role in the port sector in Timor-Leste.
Nurtured Human Resources Active in Various Roles
JICA’s 20-year support for human resource development has generated mutual cooperation in various parts of Timor-Leste. FoEST-UNTL, in collaboration with APORTIL, continues research on tide level observation, which is important for port and harbour management. In addition, a growing number of graduates from FoEST-UNTL have joined APORTIL, and this has resulted in an expanding circle of co-operation through the development of human resources.
JICA will continue to support the new development of Timor-Leste based on the three pillars of “further development of infrastructure”, “continued diversification of industry”, and “provision of social services from the residents’ perspective”, with human resource development at its core.
This article was originally published on July 24, 2020 on the website of JICA at https://www.jica.go.jp/english/news/field/2020/20200714_01.html
We would like to thank JICA for their permission to republish this article.
JAPAN INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION AGENCY (JICA)
The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) supports the socioeconomic development, recovery or economic stability of developing regions. Since 2000, it has supported the Government of Timor-Leste to improve the lives of the Timorese people through rehabilitation of infrastructure, human capacity building, and improvements in living and health conditions through activities by Japanese NGOs.