DESCRIPTION OF THE EXPERIENCE
It was the year 2000 and ETEPA, a avocational higher education school in Castelo Branco, was contacted to receive students from Timor Lorosae (East Timor). This was a challenge to which the school responded. It likes challenges and changes.
The school welcomed four students, a girl and three boys who were enrolled in Portuguese schools according to their skills in Portuguese.
One of them was older, a Fretilin soldier; another had been a policeman in Indonesia; and the third had been enrolled at the university in Indonesia.
At first, only one of them spoke Portuguese and communication was often difficult. They were lodged in a hall of residence and their living conditions were poor. It was winter and they were very cold, because unused to the cold climate.
The classes went on as normal as possible, despite the miscommunication problems. At a certain point, the school required a local teacher from Timor to come and help facilitate communication between school and the students.
There were many issues that required the attention of teachers, namely health issues. The head teacher facilitated all integration issues in the local community and health services, and friendship grew betwen her and the students while they attended together medical consultations.
The youngest student was shy and only spoke English. He took longer to develop a relationship of close proximity with the headmaster and did it most of the times very discreetly, at first. Gradually, however, his communication difficulties disappeared. He exchanged words, letters, and on Valentine’s Day he would send the head teacher a letter of friendship and care.
The had teacher tried to show him the advantages of the opportunity that he had been offered to study in Portugal and in Europe. The course might not correspond to his desires, but it could open doors for him. Thus, he became a good student and he adpated socially. During his holiday, he travelled to France.
When he left school, with his professional diploma, he said goodbye to the head teacher as a true son. It was an emotional goodbye for both.
As soon as he arrived in Timor, he phoned the head teacher; during the following years, he continue to write to her about his house, his work, his marriage, the birth of his children, till today (2014).
Although he lives and works in Timor at Telecom, he still feels a son of his school ETEPA.
The secret for this deep relationship lies in proximity, care, sensibility, love, strategies of encouragement and words from the heart.