Name: Monrique dos Reis
Institution: Flinders University
Course of study: Bachelor in Disability Policy and Practice
According to the 2015 census there are over 40,000 people with a disability in Timor-Leste. Many, especially those living in remote rural areas, don’t have access to education and are denied the chance to learn and develop their talents.
Those living with vision impairment are especially disadvantaged, as people generally haven’t heard of braille and don’t think people with a visual impairment can read or write.
Australia Awards Alumni and Bachelor of Disability and Inclusion Studies, Monrique dos Reis is determined to change this. After graduating Monrique secured funding via the Australia Awards Small Grant Program.
Aiming to raise awareness of the challenges people with vision impairment face accessing education in remote areas of Timor-Leste, he set up a research project in a small mountainous community in Iliomar, Lautem.
Recruiting a research volunteer with a visual impairment to support the project and with the help of local authority contacts, they used semi-structured questionnaires to interview 20 participants aged from 15 to 60 years old, including ten with vision impairment, six caregivers and four primary school teachers.
Research findings highlighted inaccessible school facilities for people with disabilities, inadequate resources and no qualified or trained teachers with the skills to teach students with vision impairment. Parents and family members also lacked awareness of the importance of education for children and youth with vision difficulties and some had too little income to send their children to school.
Monrique has presented his findings to relevant government, education and NGO contacts and is also aiming to carry out research in other municipalities to raise awareness and help champion inclusive education across the country. To do this he’s planning to team up with Australia Awards Scholar, Jose do Karmo, who’s currently studying for a Masters in disability Policy and Practice at Flinders University.
Monrique’s project is an example of how Australia Awards Alumni are using their skills and experience to promote equality and help develop their country. And, for Monrique personally the project has not only improved his listening skills but has also reinforced his commitment to advocate for people with a disability and their right to an education.