Catholic Education as Tools for Evangelization
- The Church understands her mission to teach as a mandate from Christ, “go, and teach all nations ….” Mtt. 28:19-20. This mission is actually the continuation of Divine revelation to humanity which is to teach man about his creator and his plans. The church acknowledges that human beings have the capacity to understand God otherwise God would not have revealed himself to man. It follows that every child of God has the capacity to learn and understand more about God, humanity, the universe and ways to improve the standard of life in our world.
- The Church in Onitsha seeks to “revive the commitment of the Church in the field of education”. Catholic education centres are envisaged to be places where people meet to dialogue and grow together. They are not just places where skills are dispensed. In doing this, care should be taken to allow the values of Catholic faith permeate the culture of the school. This forms the core of the Catholic identity which should characterize our schools. While we should endeavour not to proselytize, we cannot shy away from sharing the peace and joy of the gospel in understanding and exploration of the universe. Moreover, all God’s people are called to this dialogue hence efforts should be made that no temporal impediment like finance or place of birth excludes anybody from accessing this wonderful instrument to know and grow. Genuine education must speak three languages: “of the head, heart and hands” (Pope Francis, Address to Catholic School Administrators, Rome, Nov. 2015). It has to stimulate the mind, move the heart to compassion and sensitivity towards others and lead to practical human development/advancement.
The Family as the Foundational School
- The Archdiocese is grateful to God for the successes being recorded in our Catholic Schools. These are the fruits of many hands, efforts and sacrifices perfected by Divine grace. There is a note that there is a broken pact between schools, family and the society. The dissociation brought about the crisis being experienced today (Pope Francis, 2015).
- We note that the family is the “domestic church” since it is there that the education of the children begins. It is important then to exercise special care for the family so that a firm and solid foundation is laid for proper education for the children. Indeed, unless the schools become a family, they will not be effective just as the family has to become an effective school to perform its functions. Schools as family can open an avenue for evangelization and healing of brokenness and lukewarm hearts.
- For greater success of students in our Catholic schools, parents should always support the right choices of their children in life. Inducing the children to choose a course of study which they are not inclined towards, brings unpleasant result. No child should be made to make a choice between studying a discipline he has interest in, with high proficiency towards and obeying the wishes of his parents. Freedom of choice and genuine support hold the promise of excellence and happiness. Therefore parents should not pay their children’s way into higher institutions of learning but always guide and offer support to follow due process. This they can do by being present and making out time to be with their children to inculcate morals and virtues. In this way, they would stop shifting blames to the schools when they would rather reconsider their attitude and parental approach towards their children so as to help them actualize their dreams.
Effective School Management
- The success of catholic education demands effective management. It is important to select experienced priests who are professionally qualified to manage the schools. They should be adjudged to have a good knowledge of the intricacies of school management. This will enable them sustain academic excellence while preserving the Catholic identity in the institutions. The Archdiocese should have a strong and well defined structure of management and administration of the schools. Setting up a central administration of the Archdiocesan schools will go a long way to guarantee proper and objective management. This unification will help sustain the desired standards for a catholic school. In a situation where pastors are also managers of schools confusion of issues arises and denies the full attention required for a smooth running of the schools. Consideration should be given to the appointment of independent managers of schools apart from pastors who should report directly to the central administration. This approach will enable pastors to devote full attention to the ever increasing demands of pastoral work in the parish.
- In the maintenance of appropriate standards, efforts should be made to ensure that those faithful who still are in the best position to teach and form the young students are retained as teachers. An effective means of ensuring this would be to set up a supervision apparatus which is aimed at keeping the teachers focused on the vision of the Church. Keeping focus would look beyond a narrow approach of teaching to the test (studying for examinations) and explore fuller understanding of issues at hand for overall human formation and development.
- In the maintenance of standards, recruitment of teachers should be restricted to those with the requisite knowledge, qualification and faith. Should there be a central management of teachers and their welfare, it will help stem the tide of the exodus of experienced teachers from the Archdiocesan schools.
Preserving Catholic Identity
- Catholic schools are more than mere places for the acquisition of skills. It is therefore important to remember that dialogue is at the centre of Catholic education. A teacher should not work in isolation but work in interdependence with the others. Three cardinal points in Catholic Education include: taking responsibility for the whole, treating educators as whole persons, and responsible citizenship. Schools should be communal than competitive. It is to be noted that Catholic Education is both stable and vulnerable. It is stable in Jesus Christ but vulnerable in the contexts within which we have to operate.
- We do observe some ugly trends of students’ misbehaviours in different forms. To succeed, we have to undertake in the formation of the formators. We must invest in lay persons as the more stable group to carry the banner of our education rooted in faith. More so, creating programs through which we teach morals like students’ choir, bible club and so on in our schools hold great promise of redemption. We have to strengthen “Thursday moral instruction” in many ways. These include having a stable pool of faithful and interested teachers, committed volunteer laity, sending moral instructors, monthly, from the centre among others. This will help make up for the shortages of moral instructors in many schools where this lack is experienced.
- Since cleanliness in next to godliness, and in line with Pope Francis’ call to sustain our environment, Archdiocesan schools should endeavor to care for God’s creation. This can be done by reintroducing the beautification of the schools environment through planting of economic and aesthetic trees, provision of dust-bins and respect of non-human creatures like birds and insects. This should be sustained through periodic monitoring and award-giving by a group to be set up in conjunction with the Archdiocesan Education Office.
- As the official language of the church, Latin should be taught in Catholic primary and secondary schools to preserve our Catholic Identity. Given that the Catholic education is holistic in approach; extracurricular activities form an integral part of that process. Therefore dignity in labour, nobility and honesty should be emphasized such that examination malpractices should not be heard of in our schools. Again, efforts should be made to train students in both primary and secondary schools on the appropriate use of cellphones and its etiquette. It is best if cellphones are discouraged during school hours. To reinforce pupil’s creativity, skills acquisitions should be given a special place in Catholic schools. To this end, establishing vocational schools in riverine areas will empower the teeming unemployed youths which will turn help curb crime.
Financing Catholic Schools
- A core aspect of the Church’s social teaching is the preferential option for the poor. The Archdiocese should therefore create a template for financing Catholic schools in such a way that the poor are not excluded from quality education. Catholic schools should not be elitist and exclusive. Among the sources of financing available to Catholic schools are: establishing Annual Education Support Fund, endowments, student/schools adoption by affluent faithful through grassroots sensitization, asking students who can, to pay more to offset the cost of educating indigent ones and entering into partnership with the State. Care should be taken that,“Catholic education does not become too selective and elitist in that only people with means and skills can access education. Owing to this separation, education separates than unites people” (Pope Francis, 2015).
- It is counter culture to Catholic social teaching to see Catholic schools being priced above what many qualified students can pay. To engender preferential option for the poor, the Archdiocese should set up a scholarship program wherein every school is required to award tuition-free education to a minimum of ten (10) indigent students broadly selected across the intellectual ability spectrum.
- It means then that not all parishes should establish schools when it is not necessary. Parishes are advised to co-establish schools when they are within safe distance of each other. In doing this, pastors of souls and the faithful should remember the primary purpose of Catholic education which is evangelization and not commercial interests. To this end, the Archdiocese should look into the tuition in Catholic schools in the urban and as well as in rural areas as the case may be considering the contexts within which each group have to operate. There should be strict guidelines for increase or introduction of fees in Catholic schools to avoid exploitation of the students.
Teachers’ welfare and paying them just wage is another aspect of the Church’s social teaching. The Archdiocese should work as of urgency and necessity, to review teachers and other staff’s salaries/emoluments to reflect fairness and justice. Building success on the backs of the defenseless labourers makes a mess of the church’s justice and mercy