Dili, January 23, 2013 – Visiting a newly constructed primary school classroom in the District of Aileu, the World Bank’s new Country Director for Timor-Leste, Franz Drees-Gross, today said that education would be one of the areas of focus under the World Bank’s next partnership strategy with Timor-Leste.
Mr Drees-Gross visited the school as part of his first trip to Timor-Leste, which included site visits to an education supplies warehouse in Aileu, the newly repaired road from Dili to Aileu, and a call-in to the Maubisse Referral Hospital.
The classroom at Aileu’s Eskola Primaria no. 1 is one of 2172 the World Bank has helped construct, rebuild or refurbish, as part of efforts supported by AusAID and other development partners, aimed at helping support the country in strengthening its education sector.
Around Timor-Leste, since its partnership with the country began, the World Bank has helped increase the number of schools from 850 to 1400, improved access to primary and secondary education, improved facilities, supplied learning materials and enhanced teacher training.
“A good education gives children the best start to life they can have, and in a country rebuilding from conflict, like Timor-Leste, this is especially important,” Franz Drees-Gross said.
“One of the biggest challenges facing the Timorese people is that Timor-Leste has one of the fastest growing populations in the world, a large proportion of which is aged younger than 25. So education is going to be critical over the next decade.
“Today I have seen a school full of happy children who are eager to learn. I have also seen the great work being done at a hospital in Maubisse. The positive impacts being made by institutions like these will help create a brighter future for the Timorese people.”
Education is a priority under the Government’s Strategic Development Plan, and for its partnership with the World Bank. Mr Drees-Gross said the World Bank would support the Government to continue improving the effectiveness of health and education, to help ensure quality services reach more people.
He added that, although Timor-Leste had a strong petroleum industry, it would need to diversify its economy to achieve sustainable and long-term development, address constraints to private sector development (including infrastructure deficits), and build a strong agricultural sector.
Mr Drees-Gross is a German and United States national with more than 15 years’ experience at the World Bank, including operational experience in Asia, South America and Africa. Most recently he was the Sustainable Development Manager for Indonesia, based in Jakarta, from where he oversaw an annual lending program of about $1.5 billion. He holds Masters degrees in Mechanical Engineering and Management from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Mr Drees-Gross will reside in Sydney with his wife and two daughters.