by Ahmad Cholis Hamzah (senior advisor for Seasia.co)
In a press release issued on November 26, 2019, the World Bank stated that the Bank supports the government of Timor Leste (East Timor) in transforming its natural wealth into improved human capital and sustainable infrastructure, which are key elements of the World Bank Group’s new 2020-2024 Country Partnership Framework (CPF) for Timor Leste.
The World Bank Group’s strategy is centered on laying the groundwork for private-sector-led growth, particularly in agriculture and tourism; improving the quality of public services by encouraging investments in education, health, social protection, water, and sanitation; and increasing productivity by connecting communities, particularly farmers, through investments in transportation and digital infrastructure.
As a newly born country, Timor Leste must strengthen critical areas such as education and health, as these are the two most significant issues the country faces, particularly in creating human capital and enhancing the quality of public spending.
Universitas Nahdlatul Ulama Surabaya (UNUSA) recognizes the country’s significant issues and has extended a strategic relationship with an education institution in Timor Leste – An Nur Foundation – and has offered a complete scholarship program to students wishing to pursue their studies at UNUSA. Along with the drop in Covid-19 instances, the enthusiasm of East Timorese students to study abroad grows.
Three students took advantage of the opportunity, and they are now studying nursing at this university. These students are well aware that UNUSA is the fastest growing institution in East Java and that it is linked with Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), Indonesia’s largest Muslim organization.
As an advisor for GENUS (Global Engagement of UNUSA), a university academic entity in charge of international cooperation activities, I have the opportunity to speak with these three students. Koiru Nisa Ramos Costa, Adnan Manuel Hermansyah, and Nofa Amalia Soares are their names.
Koiru Nisa Ramos Costa and Adnan Manuel Hermanyah said they are from the East Timor town of Afabuko – Lakawa, which is about an 8-hour bus ride from the capital Dili. They are from a farming family that grows rice and corn. Surprisingly, these farmers provide full support and strongly encourage them to come to Surabaya to pursue their ambition of studying abroad.
There are 200 Muslims and 300 Christians in this calm village, and as Muslims, they are proud of the high degree of tolerance in their villages. Nisa attended a Senior High School in another town, Lautem-Los Palos, a four-hour journey away. Nisa is a bright student who has been involved in the Youth of the Parliament – a youth group in Dili – since junior high school and recently participated in the International Students Forum conducted by Universitas Airlangga Surabaya on April 26, 2022. (a state university).
Amalia Soares is from Manatuto–Laelo village, which is roughly a four-hour drive from Dili. She aspired to be a nurse, like Koiru Nisa and Adnan, because she had seen how difficult it was to care for her sick father – both Amalia and Nisa’s fathers died. As a result, they have a great desire to become trustworthy health professionals in their home nation.
These three students are overjoyed because their parents support them and urge them to study in Indonesia, as do many other East Timorese adolescents who are studying in other places throughout the country. They acquired scholarship information from a variety of universities; some give scholarships to different places in Indonesia, but they chose UNUSA since it offers complete scholarships. They also looked into UNUSA and discovered that it has academic strengths in the field of health sciences.
They also do not encounter severe cultural shock because Surabaya and its people are extremely welcoming to visitors. Their only modification is eating, because Surabaya cuisine is fiery and salty. Aside from that issue, there is nothing to be concerned about; in fact, many people mistakenly believe they are Javanese because their skin color is similar to that of Javanese.
Prof. Ir. Achmad Jazidie, M.Eng., Rector of Unusa, praised the spirit of these East Timor students who are determined to continue their studies at Unusa. The rector expects that additional foreign students from Timor Leste will continue their studies at Unusa in the future. “We will push education collaboration in East Timor and hope that many East Timorese can study in Unusa because we have the same culture,” he was reported as adding.
After completing their studies at UNUSA, these motivated students are determined to help build their country.