By Luis Ugalde S.J, Centre of educative Reflection and Planification of Venezuela, Latin America.
The idea of a “quality education for all” is also new in the Society of Jesus. The SJ was born when this right did not exist and the vast majority of the people were illiterate. It developed as an educational religious order in a world where very few people went to school. Nowadays, the universal right to a quality and life-long education generates duties for the families, societies and states. Even though Jesuit education nowadays represents less than 1% of the total, it is still a strategic priority for our apostolate. But why?
When the Jesuits discussed the convenience of engaging with school education, a quarter of a century after its creation and with many consolidated schools, the famous F. Ledesma presented (1565) 4 arguments in favor, being one of them: “because it contributes to the proper administration of public affairs and the correct formulation of laws”.
Despite the changes and the current generalization of education in the world, Ignatian education reaches 3 million people and it is connected with another five million graduates, fathers and mothers. Apart from what they obtain from this education, we have to think about how they contribute with their faith and Christian inspiration to create a more humane and fair world.
For a Christian person, there is no love for God if there is no love for men. In 1973 F. Arrupe challenged former students inviting them to live “an efficient love whose initial postulate was justice, which is the only guarantee that our love for God is not fake or even a Pharisaical cloak that covers our selfishness”( Speech at the 60 European Congress of Former Students, Valencia, 1973).
In the post-conciliar church, the question about the inseparability of faith and justice was a burning subject and it set the synods of the bishops of 1971 and 1974 that helped with the famous and debated 4 Decree of the 32nd General Congregation (1974-75) about “Our Mission today”. The Decree starts by saying that “the mission of the Society of Jesus today is to serve faith, of which the promotion of justice constitutes an essential requirement” (n. 2). This principle requires a “new view” (n. 2) to answer “new challenges” (n.3) and it invites us to discern, “revise solidarities”, reevaluate methods, attitudes and institutions (n.9). What is the outreach of the faith-justice of students, families, former students in the promotion of justice and the requirements of public policy to make quality education a reality for everyone?
In the 40 years that have passed since then, education has widespread all over the world and has opened itself to the ones that were formerly excluded. But it is also true that the education to which the majority of the poor people have access to is a low quality one that will contribute to their poverty and exclusion. The right to a quality education for everyone opens the door (or it shuts it if it is violated) to the rest of the human rights. It is vital nowadays that the national and international voice of Ignatian education is increasingly more united and clear in this matter.
We, the Ignatian educators, are called to be “witnesses of the gospel that indissolubly unites the love to God and the service of men “(n.31). That is why we value a watchful to the way our education and the conscience that educates influences the right to a quality education for all.