Based on monitoring undertaken by the Timor-Leste Coalition for Education (TLCE), the number of rural high school graduates who go on to access higher education is low because most cannot afford to move to the city to continue their studies at university.
Data collected in Timor-Leste shows that out of the almost 15.000 high school who graduate annually, only 20% access higher education.
TLCE National Secretary Jose de Jesus said in the Constitution of Republic, Article 15, states everyone has the right to access quality education but many people cannot because all universities are in the city.
He said to ensure everyone the same right, the government through the Ministry of Education has the responsibility to give adequate and proper chance for everyone.
"The universities particularly the National University of Timor Lorosa'e (UNTL) should extend and hold parallel classes in the municipalities that have larger populations," he urged at his office, in Kaikoli, Dili.
He said the government should establish universities in Baucau, Maliana and Ainaro so students from the municipalities may continue their studies after high school without having to move to the city.
Some private schools have extended their parallel classes to several municipalities but he said lack the quality due to poor conditions.
"They just use high school classrooms or the ad-hot facilities to teach and the students after completing their studies attend graduation in Dili," he said.
He also urged the Ministry of Education to establish rigorous regulations and the academic calendar for private universities to ensure quality.
Besides, he also has concerns with some private universities that deliver three semesters in first year which does not guarantee the quality of education.
Meanwhile, student Cesarino Gonçalves was concerned with large number of students and not enough classrooms.
"The space is not suitable; the rooms are insufficient and it makes it difficult for lecturers to teach entire days. Sometimes they must hold lectures on Saturday and Sunday," he said.
He added that even UNTL only accepted 2.000 students but due to lack of space when they should have accepted up to 5.000 students in 2016.
On the other hand, Member of Commission F (health, education, culture, veterans, and gender equality affairs) MP Eladio Faculto acknowledged the situation and therefore the government has resorted to offering scholarships to young people to study abroad.
He said the opportunity is often given to those with special circumstances such coming from low economic backgrounds who are capable but cannot continue their studies due to financial limitations.
"Children of ordinary people especially orphans should have the right to get opportunities," he said.
He also called for the government to establish rigorous regulations including sanction for returning scholarship recipients who refuse to work for public institutions therefore wasting the investment on them by the State.
He said these students should pay back the money invested in them for their education.