Name: Cristina Yuri dos Santos Costa
Institution: Charles Darwin University
Course of study: MBA in International Business and Commercial Management
Meet Mana Cristina
With a bachelor’s degree in Marketing and Public Relations and an MBA in International Business and Commercial Management from Charles Darwin University, Australia Awards Alumni Cristina Yuri Rebelo dos Santos Costa spent her early career working in the oil and gas industry, but had a passion for education and dreamed about setting up her own school.
In 2016, as a first step towards her dream, Cristina founded BB’s Tutoring Tree running short courses for girls and boys in Dili. And just 1 year later she developed the centre into a school for 4-6-year-old pupils.
More than fifty students from 5 different countries are now being taught at St Anthony’s on a full and part-time basis. Pupils follow the Australian curriculum, taught in English, and the school is an associated member of the Association of Independent Schools of Northern Territories (AISNT).
They’re also twinned with St Andrew’s school in Darwin, who provided teaching assistants for a school assessment and have plans for a student exchange.
Setting up a school is a significant achievement for anyone, but what’s especially striking is that Cristina achieved this whilst also working as a Senior Adviser for Trade Invest Timor-Leste in the Ministry for Economic Affairs whilst also bringing up two children of her own.
Luckily her husband, Cesar Augusto Dias Quintas, Timor-Leste’s first Fulbright Scholar, shares her passion for education. As general manager at St Anthony’s he co-ordinates the school’s administration and plays a key role in enabling Cristina to juggle her hectic work life balance.
At the school, there’s a good gender balance between the pupils and teachers but Cristina knows in some parts of the Timor-Leste families prioritise educating boys over girls. This mindset is something she’s keen to change. Her biggest current challenge however is keeping up with regulation and curriculum changes whilst trying to keep operational costs and school fees down.
Watching the students develop keeps her motivated. She’s especially proud of how their English language has improved, which she sees as a vital skill for her country’s future.
‘With Timor-Leste’s ambitions to become a full member of ASEAN and membership of the World Trade Organisation approaching it’s important to prepare kids with the right language skills’.
And whilst her mainly Filipino and Portuguese teaching team are helping Cristina to build teaching capacity, in five years’ time her goal is for all her teachers to be Timorese and able to teach kids from kindergarten to year 12 at an international level.
It’s a wonder Cristina has any time to relax, her energy and purpose is inspiring and her ambitions for St Anthony’s and her country highlight how the Australia Awards scholarships scheme not only helps individuals maximise their potential but also furthers Timor-Leste’s future development.