We will be featuring short stories on the development of innovative Montessori schools serving diverse communities, to share with you some of the incredible work around the world. This blog shares the story of Sister Eileen Savage, who established and continues to support a Montessori school on the island of Timor-Leste.

On the remote island Timor-Leste (between Australia and Indonesia) in a mountainous town Maliana, an innovative and inspiring Montessori programme exists. The school, called Eskola Sagrado Coracao de Jesus, (Sacred Heart of Jesus School) was established by Sister Helen Nolen, who has been instrumental in setting up schools for under-privileged children. Having heard about Montessori education, she asked one of the most experienced Montessori teachers in Australia, Sister Eileen Savage, for her support. In August 2015, Sister Eileen made the journey to Timor-Leste and helped establish two 3-6 classroom environments as well as training for the local teachers. The language barrier proved a big challenge, but fortunately Sister Helen was able to translate which helped training sessions run fairly smoothly.

After her first visit, Sister Eileen continued to return to Maliana for a four-week stay every few months. The children became very focused on the practical life activities and Montessori materials that were available to them. Sister Eileen helped prepare some written Montessori presentations which were then translated into the official language of Timor-Leste, Tetun (influenced by the Portuguese language). The essays of trainees were also translated to help develop the knowledge of the teachers of the Montessori Method.

Obtaining the materials for the classes remained a challenge. All of the materials have so far been acquired through generous donations. The shelves and many wooden materials have been made in Maliana by Brother Herie in his wood workshop. 

As of January 2018, there were 88 children enrolled in the three 3-6 classes in the school with the beginnings of a need for some 6-12 lessons. The dream for Maliana is to eventually send people from the town to Montessori training. The children have a hot meal around 10 am each morning, with rice being the main ingredient which is cooked by a member of staff. The children and teachers have an amazing desire to learn. The resources on the island are very limited, but each day the children learn new concepts and have new experiences that support their growth and development.

The school is now looking for experienced 6-12 Montessori guides to continue serving the children as they move to the next developmental plane and to offer guidance through the next steps, as much work will need to be done to establish the 6-12 environment. Mentors at all levels up to 12 years are welcome to support this amazing Montessori environment. Do you have Montessori experience? Can you make time a few weeks a year to assist these children? Please write to Sister Eileen Savage at [email protected]