Introduction / History
Timor Leste (East Timor) is a new country that was formed after the war between East Timor and Indonesia ended. (West Timor is still a province in Indonesia.)
Before the war there was one school for the Deaf in East Timor with a principal and a few teachers. Soon after the war began the school principle and the teachers from other areas in Indonesia were allowed to transfer back to other parts of Indonesia. There was only one of the teachers who was a native of East Timor, so she remained in the province (as it was called at that time). At the time the war began there were about 35 Deaf students in the school.
During the Signed Languages Survey of Indonesia my companion and I met the Principal of the Deaf School at the Gorontalo School for the Deaf in Gorontalo Province on Sulawesi Island. He had been the principal in East Timor before, and told us the school for the Deaf there.
He said that they had been using the official sign language dictionary published by the Indonesian Government to teach the Deaf children in East Timor, so all those pupils would know standard Indonesian Sign Language. However, he said that the lone teacher who was left behind would not be able to cope with such a large number of children, and that undoubtedly the school was closed after he left. All of the graduates, and the current children at that time may still be using Indonesian Sign Language.
The government of Timor Leste recognizes the need for education for the Deaf. An official at a language conference in 2010 stated, "We must recognize the rights of our Deaf community....sign language will be officially recognized and we will engage the Deaf community to officially develop Timorese Sign Language (TSL)."
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