The scorching sun may deter some people from venturing out of their homes, but not the hundreds of children hoping to get a place in Colégio de Santo Inácio de Loiola (CSIL). They braved the heat, some travelling for an hour, to go to Kasait for the entrance exam.
In total, 278 candidates for Year 7 and 145 for Year 10 showed up, excited and anxious. They knew that it was going to be tough getting into the school, not just because of the exam but also because there were many more applicants than available places.
The hope of the children and their parents was palpable as the children took their seats in their assigned rooms and their parents gathered outside to wait. It was moving to see a father standing by the window, cheering and encouraging his daughter minutes before the exam began. And the high five exchange of another father with his son must surely have boosted the boy’s confidence as he entered the exam room. One might almost say the campus was painted with love as parents hugged and kissed their son or daughter in the corridors, wishing them best of luck in the exam. The strong sense of family was obvious.
The exams were just the first step in applying to become a student in CSIL. The results announced on October 5 created a shortlist of those who got to go on to the next round.
After a week, they were called with one or two of their parents or guardians for an interview. They waited nervously for their turn, well aware that the competition was tougher at this stage. They knew the interview had to go well and that they had to make a good impression on the interviewers to get in.
In the end, the new intake for the school year 2016 was determined – 105 in the new Year 7 class, and 29 who will join the existing 76 Year 9 students in CSIL in the Year 10 cohort. One of the incoming Year 10 students is Amon Alves Correia.
The son of a carpenter who barely earns enough to make ends meet, Amon has walked past CSIL on his way to school every day. But next year, thanks to the help he received in the Ulmera Project (a Jesuit endeavour that works to increase the chances children from the Ulmera community have of getting into CSIL), he will walk through the CSIL school gate as a student. His family is eager for him to attend the school despite the hardship they face every day.
“Even though we do not have the money to support my son’s education, I am determined to find ways,” Amon’s father, Joaquim Alves, told Fr EJ Gerilla SJ. “The future of my son is the most important for me.”
The new intake in 2016 almost doubles CSIL’s current population and there will be an increase in faculty as well. But even as the Jesuits and staff prepare to open another school year, they know the road ahead is long and fraught with challenges.
The new Year 7 class will be CSIL’s fourth, taking it across the half-way mark to full capacity in 2018, when CSIL will have students in Year 7 to 12. Some changes in processes are needed but in general, things are falling into place. What is of more urgent concern are the need to raise enough funds to complete the construction and equipment of the Jesuit education project, and develop a robust plan for the school’s sustainability. For this, the Jesuits in Timor-Leste will need the continued help and support, financial and in kind, of Jesuits, friends and benefactors across the world.