Refugees in Protracted Exile Need Long-Term Solutions to Education Gap

Refugees in Protracted Exile Need Long-Term Solutions to Education Gap

  • Posted: Apr 05, 2017 -
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The world is just waking up to the reality that investing in long-term solutions is critical for refugees who linger in camps or informal settlements for years and sometimes decades.

The U.N. refugee agency, UNHCR, estimated that by the end of 2015 some 6.7 million refugees – 41 percent of those under their mandate – were in a protracted situation, spending five years or longer in exile.

In camps and villages that have shed characteristics of short-term settlements, children are being born, families are finding ways to survive, and communities hosting refugees are struggling with how to live, work and go to school together.

Education plays a particularly vital role for those who are displaced, as they will be tasked not only with rebuilding their lives, but rebuilding their communities as well.

Last month, I visited three of 12 refugee camps in eastern Chad that are home to over 300,000 refugees from the Darfur region of Sudan who fled during a genocide beginning in 2004. At that time, the global community, including American celebrities and activists, mobilized to decry the violence. Now, few hear about the ongoing instability in Darfur and, to an even lesser extent, the thousands of refugees who fled for their lives.

These are areas of the world where refugees find themselves in limbo. They have no hope of returning home, and resettlement to a third country is reserved for the very few – about one percent. Often, this leaves integration into their host community as their only hope.

Jesuit Refugee Service manages all education programs in eastern Chad, from preschool through tertiary education. Refugees and partner organizations told me time and again about the severe impact of systemic budget cuts and donor fatigue. Thus, dilapidated school structures – intended only to last a brief time – cannot be rehabilitated, students have to attend classes in shifts and teacher salaries and incentives remain low.

In Iridimi camp, I met Ibtissam, a preschool teacher who received training from Jesuit Refugee Service last year, but due to a lack of funds, training was not possible this year. She manages a group of 3-6-year-olds and makes do with very little.

Further south, in Goz Amir camp, I met with another group of preschool teachers who were excited about having the opportunity to provide their children with education at a young age. They spoke of children feeling protected, taken care of and at peace. Parents are able to work while their children are in school. The benefits of education to these refugee communities were palpable.

Yet, like many refugee-hosting countries, Chad is juggling a variety of challenges. This includes a significant influx of refugees fleeing the Boko Haram insurgency in the Lake Chad region, in the western part of the country.

Chad struggles to provide access to education for its own citizens. According to the UNESCO Global Education Monitoring Report, the primary school completion rate in Chad is 28 percent. About 90 percent of students in Chad’s primary schools have to share textbooks with at least two students.

Donors and humanitarian organizations must work more closely to develop and fund programs that focus on integration, in which both refugees and the population of the country hosting them will benefit. As with all protracted crises where a displaced population has lived among, or close to, a host population for many years, integration and collaboration between the humanitarian and development sectors is critical.

For those of us working with refugees who have been displaced for many years, Education Cannot Wait, a new fund for education in emergencies that launched last year is placing much-needed focus on these forgotten crises. The goal of Education Cannot Wait is to validate education as a priority in humanitarian responses to longer-term crises and adequately finance the educational needs of millions of children and young people.

Currently housed at UNICEF, Education Cannot Wait has secured $113.4million from a diverse group of donors. The fund chose Chad as one of three countries to receive an initial investment of $10 million over two years. Education Cannot Wait-supported programs in Chad are being developed jointly with humanitarian and development groups with the aim of benefiting both the refugee and host populations.

Programs will be developed by combining components of both the emergency response strategy developed by the humanitarian Education Cluster, a forum coordinated by UNICEF for NGOs, U.N. agencies, academics and others working on education for the displaced, as well as Chad’s 10-year plan for the Development of Education and Literacy.

By taking both a humanitarian and development approach, the programs under development will focus not only on improvements in infrastructure and basic needs like classroom materials and providing food in schools, but also on non-formal education programs and income-generating activities.

During last year’s Leaders’ Summit on Refugees, hosted by the Obama administration, the Chadian government pledged to take a similar, integrated approach. This included assuming responsibility for, and improving access to, secondary education for approximately 75,000 refugees over the course of the next five years.

The Chadian government also pledged to accredit qualified refugee teachers and allow them to teach in camp, public and private schools. As part of this effort, Jesuit Refugee Service recently launched a scholarship program to enroll refugees in a local teacher-training college and get certified to teach in Chadian secondary schools and in the camps.

There is no singular solution to protracted crisis situations like the one in Chad. But, efforts to engage new donors, collaborate among sectors and focus on opportunities to integrate refugees into host communities are some of the ways that we will be able to increase access to a quality education for refugees facing long periods of exile.

About the author: Giulia McPherson is the Director of Advocacy & Operations at Jesuit Refugee Service/USA and core group member of the GIAN Right to Education for All. Prior to joining JRS, Giulia was with CARE USA for 11 years, most recently as Director of Citizen Advocacy. Giulia has a Bachelors in Political Science from Villanova University and a Masters in International Development Studies from The George Washington University.

Editorial piece originally posted here

Cooperation towards the right to education, a measure of first need

Cooperation towards the right to education, a measure of first need

  • Posted: Mar 03, 2017 -
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According to H.G.Wells , “Civilization is in a race between education and catastrophe”, and one century later, we don’t know what side is winning. The social inequality gap, the humanitarian crisis that are affecting to more than 65 millions of refugees, the environmental degradation or the 800 million people still living in extreme poverty show us a context particularly worrying. Now, the race is on the game and the commitment in education remains critical to live in a fairer and more equitable world.”

For  the GIAN Right to education and the international community, education is a key factor to change the current eco-social crisis. The lack of education or even the fragile fulfillment of it, not only make us think about some challenges in terms of the basic social needs, but they also condition the development of capacities, of models and alternatives suggestions, of the achievements of other needs, or the personal and professional self-fulfillment. As Manfred Max Neef proposed “needs, narrowly conceived as deprivation, are often restricted to that which is merely physiological and as such the sensation that ‘something which is lacking is acutely felt’. However, to the degree that needs engage, motivate and mobilize people, they are a potential and eventually may become a resource.”

In other words, not only we lack something, we maybe are plenty of other things but we need different ones. However, there is no doubt we must boost the capacity to generate new subjects and new forms of organizations that assure more equitable and inclusive societies that also are more respectful to its nature. We cannot achieve this without the benefits of education, if we understand the right to education not only as the access to the primary school but as an inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all, as described in the fourth Sustainable Development Goal (SDG4) of the new international development agenda.

The right to education for all challenge must therefore be a priority of any policy, especially for those ones similar to the new agenda 2030, which identifies the main challenges that we must face to transform our world. The ability of the right to education to make the achievement of other rights possible, as well as the catalytic role to activate other social processes should place it in the heart of our work.

Education help us to achieve better levels of social welfare, reduces the economic and social inequalities, encourage the independently mobility of people, allows to improve our access and our conditions to work, opens new opportunities for young people, help us to deal with infectious diseases and unhealthy hygiene practices, improves our diet, contributes to remove discriminatory or intolerant conducts, support the familiar plan and the defense of the sexual and reproductive rights, benefit the political participation or helps us to build more democratic and pacifist societies. All these benefits are well known by the international community.

Nonetheless, if we review the results of the “La ayuda en educación a examen (ODAto Education Examined 2017)” that has been developed from three Jesuit Organisations: Entreculturas, joint to Alboan and the ETEA Foundation, you will find that the international trend from 2007 is the loss of the education relevance. This report shows a damaged perspective of the rights addressed to primarily problems that constitute the origin of many issues.

As they have pointed out in the report, it is necessary to recuperate the investment in cooperation, but they have to reinforce a commitment with priorities, which takes advantage of the hard work experience and shares the same goals with the agenda 2030. For this, education must have an essential role as the motor of change, as an instrument to build a more awareness citizenship of its own rights, but also a more judgmental society with inequality or unfair situations.

If we make this commitment and trust the assertion of H.G.Wells, we are still on time to stop the catastrophe.

This post was originally published here (in Spanish).

Human Rights’ waves spread through Venezuela

Human Rights’ waves spread through Venezuela

  • Posted: Jan 12, 2017 -
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Good morning! We welcome Rdio Fe y Alegría Venezuela! You are listening to the radio national signal of news. 13 young peasants have dissapeared in Barvolento, in Miranda State, and were found dead during a military operation. These young boys didn’t have any criminal record and according to their families have told, they were taken away without judicial writ. This radio network reported this fact that leads to debate the citizen security, the military rol and the human rights.

After 40 years of educative experience in the country, the radio network risks it all due to educate on the Human Rights by the media’s treatment of the Barvolento case.

Patricia is a social activist who sent a message during the programme to say “Fe y Alegría is a champion radio of the Human Rights, with a social engagement, which is dedicated to train the citizenship. Today I’ve learnt how to make a claim, I knew more about laws, and now I know how to elaborate a writ of amparo and demand our rights”.

Antonia Cáceres, of 31 years old, lives in Catia, the west of Caracas. She listens to the radio every day and says  “what I like the most of the radio network is the alteration of the political present, they talk about the rapes in Barvolento with no fear. I learnt the difference between a crime and the violation of a human right”.

Jairo Gil phoned on air to point out “the network reports well, but I wondered if the radio defends the human rights of criminals. Why do they judge the military officers who arrested the thieves of cars and the extortionist of Barvolento? Why do you defend these young boys and you didn’t talk about the victims of theft?”

The journalist answered to him also on air “laws of Venezuela guarantee the right to life, there’s no death penalty, and people suspected of being a criminal have the right of a trial, the Barvolento case has to be investigated and the authorities confirmed that the young boys didn’t have a criminal record so some military officers has been arrested”.

Today, Fe y Alegría Network runs 26 radio stations in Venezuela whose programmes are dedicated to talk about health problems, familiar plans, ecology, education, indigenous world, adolescence, human rights, gender, nutrition, democracy and solidary economics pedagogically. This group of radio stations is following this case and profit this opportunity to create citizen training.

Many of intern documents and the manual of this Network policy, point out that journalists have to look at theirselves as citizenship educators in a learning process while they cover a story. “This is not simply a lesson class. The communicator learns how to hear and the listener how to talk. Everybody learns.”

Gerardo Lombardi, national director of the IRFA during what is happening in Barvolento and numerous cases of extreme use of force by the police and military authorities, makes a reflection “We take action from the observation, the investigation, and the outrage with an ethic action to cover these stories. We work in our radios democratizing the word with every voice, trying to become “the third ranked news of the country” in order to remove the rude and stupid polarization of Venezuela and to contribute in the construction of a more fair, fraternal and democratic society in this way.


Quality Education for Transformation and Creative Leadership

Quality Education for Transformation and Creative Leadership

  • Posted: Jul 12, 2016 -
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Quality education brings about transformation of body, mind, heart and spirit. Since a policy is a present decision for future action, a relevant Education Policy can become a critical and effective change agent for the transformation of India and its people.

Envisioning a future we want to build together, we work together for the dawn of that day to come soon when India’s greatness will be judged, not primarily by its military or economic strength nor by the splendor of its capital cities and public buildings; nor by the affluence and wealth of a minority of its population; but by the well-being of all its peoples; specifically by the actual availability of the three fundamental guarantees of equality, justice and freedom to all, resulting in national unity; by the provision and attainment of adequate levels of education, health, housing and nutrition that all have access to and avail of; by the opportunities that the people of different levels of competence have to earn a  fair reward for their labours; by the ability of their women to participate in those decisions that affect their lives; by the respect that it shows for civil and political liberties; by the provisions that are made for creating an inclusive Indian society, formed as a community of diverse cultures and a new society where every person is accepted, respected, loved and cherished, irrespective of differences of religion, caste, sex, language, colour, ideology or ethnicity.

Personal, local and regional initiatives synergizing into a national movement for a regenerated nation will create a new people and a civilization of love and peace, a Dharma Bharat.

India’s unique insight is that knowledge liberates.  In today’s knowledge-intensive and technology-driven world, possession of competence has become a non-negotiable component for everyone to enable the person to deal with the demands of life today and the greater demands  of tomorrow. It is not enough to focus on economic development only or on building smart cities; but make people smart to take responsibilities within and without. How many lakhs of ‘Kalpana Chawlas’ lie hidden in our school campuses?  They have to be identified and opportunities be given  for their full development. The dream goal is: make every Indian a winner in school and in life.

A pious dream? No. Today, with technology backed pedagogy, this is indeed possible.

Our present system of education does not produce competence, except for a few and in a few institutions. The majority come out of the education system incompetent. Due to cultural constraint we are also very allergic to even constructive criticism. We should aim at not just education for all, but quality education for all.

For this our educational institutions need to be freed from bureaucratic rules and regulations, and make a radical shift of educational goal from learning to memorize content to becoming competent to deal with the realities of life and conditions through development of higher  order learning skills. We need to develop a curriculum of life skills and soft skill (emotional intelligence) for the whole school stage, involving both the left and right brain competences. A fresh document with behaviourally specific learning outcomes in terms of holistic skills for the primary and upper primary levels needs to be produced and implemented. Accountability mechanisms need to be incorporated  in the administrative process.

Effective measures to provide quality education especially in government run schools ought to be implemented. There is no evidence in history of any country successfully achieving universalisation of education except through government intervention.  We cannot continue to neglect half of India’s people and hope to become a developed nation.  Seriously we need to take a definitive view on the need and necessity of value education and character formation.  Delinking from religion we need to link to a spirituality of life and action.

Currently the soul of India is being put on sale in the urban market place, where money and personal profit alone are gaining the first and only place as the almost exclusive currency for all kinds of transactions. Hence the urgent need to provide value clarification for the young. Today education on human rights and values has become an imperative.

Make India Indian again: Truly Indian, Really Modern and Deeply Human.


Note about the author: this is a short edited version of a rather long reflection by a renowned Jesuit educationalist, Fr. Thomas Kunnunkal of Delhi Jesuit Province, in the context of  the present Indian political dispensation wanting to advocate a National Education Policy for India.  Government of India had recognized his educational caliber when he was appointed as the Chairman of the Central Board of Secondary Education for the whole of India. (john Chathanatt, SJ, GIAN Member, South Asia).

Faith and Justice Quality Education

Faith and Justice Quality Education

  • Posted: Jun 02, 2016 -
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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.

Promoting the right to education

Promoting the right to education

  • Posted: May 10, 2016 -
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More than 3 years ago an intensive campaign of civil society supporting quality education in the Dominican Republic, reached that a State Law doubled the budget allocated to education. The Government pledged to allocate to education 4% of GDP. Since then, the educational prospect of the country is changing remarkably: schools number are increasing, more academic resources, better paid teachers and the widespread conviction that the education is a common good that deserves primary public attention.

Some works of the Society played a key role in that social mobilization. A Jesuit told me recently: “even if the Society had pawned to improve the educational offer with all our energies, we would never have reached such an impact. The State can do what we never could”.


The Society is engaged in providing education in many countries, something we have been doing since St. Ignatius times. We work for our students, those who attend our classrooms, but in reality, what we really want is accessibility to the quality education for all people without discrimination. St. Ignatius said the more universal the good is, the greater. To get mobilized for the right to education, not only for its provision, means to get involved for a greater good. Hence we can say that all our Ignatian tradition invites us to promote the right to a quality education for all.


Today´s children and youth need this education, not to mention the adults. Education helps living, generates dignity, promotes the human growth and provides tools for professional performance. If we want to fight for equal opportunities for all, we need education. If we want to prevent violence in our societies, education must be reached by all young people in accompanying them throughout the difficult adolescence. The transformation of perceptions and social attitudes requires dedicated and slow cooking of the education. Aspiring to sustainable development, thus, an environmentally friendly and inclusive world will also require patient training process. In such a specialized and complex world like ours, where there are still millions of children who do not attend school and many more who receive poor trainings, the education is more than ever necessary.


The Society knows about the education. Our dedication to this task is already very old, so we have accumulated a lot of experience. We are present in many countries, with communities of varied social and ethnic origins, which provide us a wide variety of perspectives. Also, the Ignatian spirituality helps us in this educational labour, as it brings together many resources to help people grow in dignity, transcendence, social awareness and generosity. Therefore, we can humbly say that we are specially prepared to continue providing education to many students, an activity that we must take great care of. If this is so, also our responsibility is bigger.


It is true that we can´t reach all education deprived students, no matter how hard we try: we are speaking of a multitude of young children out-of-school and illiterate adults. Providing a quality education for all will be a State task. We can´t replace it. What is within our reach is to engage in dialogue with the States to claim for enhance education and for quality standards. We have the credibility to do it this way, given the work we do. We have the obligation to do it, if we really are in pursuit of a necessary universal education, as our vocation for justice demands.

This is why we can say that promoting today the right to a quality education for all people and throughout the long-life is a necessary field in which we express our commitment to education. As St. Ignatius said, love, the more universal, the more divine.

Patxi Álvarez de los Mozos SJ is the Ecology and Social Justice Secretariat of the Spanish SJ.

Education: the most important resource

Education: the most important resource

  • Posted: Apr 27, 2016 -
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I have in my hands a book that is a real gem. It is called “Small is beautiful” and its author does not need any presentation: Ernst Friedrich Schumacher (1911-1977). Knowing his record, I was sure that in that book I would find pages dedicated to education. Not in vain, “Small is beautiful” is one of the 100 most influential books published after the Second World War.

I have copied the title of this post from Schumacher. In fact, the economist and intellectual includes an entire chapter on education and he called it: “The most important resource: education”. From this chapter I have taken several sentences: “Education is, or should be, the key to everything”.“If the nuclear era carries new dangers, if the advance of genetic engineering opens the door to new abuses, if consumerism brings new temptations, the answer must be more and better education”. 

“The first task of education is the transmission of the criteria for added value about what to do with our lives”. “The desire for education is the desire for something that will take us out of this dark forest that is ignorance and into the light of understanding”.  “The problems of education are just a reflection of the deeper problems of our time”.

E.F. Schumacher published “Small is beautiful” in 1973. Over 40 years have passed and we find ourselves immerse in the XXI century. However, it is not an overstatement to say that nowadays, we can take the German economist ideas and complete them with the approach of education as a human right, recognised by the United Nations and expressed in many international human rights treaties. We find its longest formulation in article 13 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, in which the States claim that education must be directed to the full development of the human personality and the full recognition of its dignity, strengthening the respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.

Many authors today place special emphasis on the transformative power of education, in the necessity of education for people to achieve full development, to encourage respect, cooperation, a critical approach accompanied by alternative proposals based on justice and solidarity. A transformative education that places personal and social compromise over indifference. An indifference that erases any hint of responsibility towards the rest of the people.

Today, the most important resource needs the transformative power so that, in words of our teacher and educator Daniel Jover Torregrosa, “a civic ethos emerges based on human rights and exchanges quantity for quality”. There is no doubt that this is a challenging task.

Mª Teresa de Febrer

Awareness department of the PROSALUS NGO which mission is the respect, protection and assurance of the human right to food, health, water and sanitation.

Quality assurance in education

Quality assurance in education

  • Posted: Apr 08, 2016 -
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“Quality education, taught by competent teachers and well backed, is a right of every child, youth and adult, and not the privilege of some” World Education Forum, 2015.

They say correctly that the present determines the future. Building the future on the present is truthfully what it takes for education. Many parents have understood so. But, how can we assure quality education? What mechanisms must be reinforced to achieve it? What parameters have to be taken into account to settle it? If we take the case of Burundi (Oriental Africa) where the education values blast and formation levels decrease highly, it is necessary to pledge the needed elements to assure quality education.

In the school of Saint Esprit (Jesuit school of excellence, Bujumbura), teachers try to determine certain parameters:

  • They select quality students in the beginning, as the farmer chooses the good seeds. In the beginning of secondary school, the students aged 10 to 12 that suit the prerequisites are selected for a better chance of success. They are well-trained in their mother tongue (the access to primary knowledge), and in modern languages: french, english (opening themselves to scientific, sociologic and ecologic notions), in maths (abstraction, reasoning). They are well motivated to study, to be active in their education, suitably conditioned, people who will bear fruit.
  • The importance of learning spaces: our students receive an education in not very full rooms, well ventilated and lit, open and with a good sound and visibility. The seats are comfortable for the long hours of work. They have enough educational material (individual textbooks, laboratory equipment, a computer screen to share between two, notebooks, etc.) Other parameters are: a good working environment, respecting the schedules and a good hold of infrastructures. Also, the organization of exams for a personal evaluation, as well as handing in homework and questionnaires regularly.

As the product also depends on the producer, the quality of education depends on the teachers. Our teachers are qualified, competent, efficient, dedicated, conscientious, enriching their science with the experience and continuing training. They must be well treated and well paid which is something that does not happen in many African countries and that several schools try to fix by giving more or less substantial bonuses. The condition of the teachers deeply affect their performance: to heal them means to heal education and its quality.  The school officials hire good teachers and treat them well (salaries, bonuses, solving health and family problems, giving them work tools, making their job easier in terms of how much work they have to correct and how many students they have).

For accompanying the children, they work together with the parents (morality, human excellence, leadership of the studies) because with the end of traditional social and family structures, the teacher loses its references.
The state and the school administration carry out other quality supervisory bodies: education policy, programs, assessment of skills, and certification of levels. Up to today, our students have done well in different academic institutions and in the working world. Unfortunately, nowadays, the level is going down and the university teachers and the employers are complaining.

The blame is on the global environment and the learning conditions. New technologies provide shortcuts: the calculator replaces calculus, electronic backups kill the memory, reading and writing is overtaken by the audiovisual.

In our country, the devaluation of education is primarily due to the devaluation of the teachers. The school teachers, formerly at the top of knowledge and education, have gone down to the bottom of the social scale and are not the best anymore. Teachers are not the ones who received the best education or the ones who know more! On the contrary: they are the ones who are less trained, less skilled and the ones who are paid less! A culture of mediocrity produces mediocrity. It means to kill education and perish!

The historian Ki-Zerbo writes « Educate or to perish »: an alternative! To get rid of the vapors that put a price on education. The one who has been taught well should teach and be well paid for it! We have to value the teaching profession, it will become more appealing and the best will fight to give the best of themselves and put up the level again.


Guillaume Ndayishimiye Bonja, sj is the Director of the Lycée du Saint Esprit, Bujumbura, Burundi

Jesuit initatives promoting The Right to Quality Education in India

Jesuit initatives promoting The Right to Quality Education in India

  • Posted: Feb 18, 2016 -
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Though I should be speaking in the South Asian (26.3% of Jesuits) context of the Jesuits for GIAN, I am going to restrict myself specifically on the Indian context. I would highlight the Indian Constitutional attempt and process for legalizing the education especially for children and the educational attempt of the 4,004 Jesuits in the Indian subcontinent, which comprises 23 % of the Jesuits in the world.

Human rights to education is a moral as well as legal right in India today. To call a principle “moral” is to indicate that it is based on a valid moral principle and that certain requirements for action are obligatory. Hence human rights are rights which imply obligatory requirements for action. Besides being moral, in accordance with a country’s improved level of consciousness, some are made legal rights. Education, especially for a child, is such a case in the Indian context today.

Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of the United Nations, to which India is a signatory, says that everyone has the right to education, and, at least, in the case of elementary levels, it shall be free and compulsory. This was enacted on December 10, 1948. Article 13 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights also reiterates the rights for education as a fundamental right and further elaborates (Article 13.2a) that primary education shall be compulsory and available freely to all. UNESCO has adopted a number of normative documents, conventions and recommendations ensuring the enjoyment of the right to education for everyone.

It is understood in the Indian context that the right to education is part of the right to life as given in Article 21 of Part II of Indian Constitution, one of the best of that kind in the world. The right to education flows from the right to life itself. The right to life under Article 21 and the dignity of the individual cannot fully be appreciated without the enjoyment of right to education.

So, recognizing the importance and significance of the right to education, the Founding Fathers (Mothers) of the nation made it a constitutional goal, and placed it under Chapter IV Directive Principle of State Policy of the Constitution of India. The state was required to make provisions within 10 years for free and compulsory education for all children until they complete the age of 14 yrs according to article 45 of the Indian Constitution. The Constitution was passed by the Constituent Assembly on November 26, 1949 as the law of the land. The Government of India by Constitutional Act, 2002 (86th Amendment Act) had added a new article 21A which provides that the state shall provide free and compulsory education to all children of the age of 6 to 14 years as the state may, by law determine.

The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act, 2009 represents the consequential legislation envisaged under Article 21-A. This means that every child has a right to full time elementary education of satisfactory and equitable quality in a formal school which satisfies certain norms and standards. The bill was approved by the cabinet on July 2, 2009. Rajya Sabha passed the bill on July 20, 2009 and the Lok Sabha on August 4, 2009. It received Presidential assent and was notified as law on September 3, 2009 as The Children’s Right to Free and Compulsory Education Act 2009. The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) has been mandated to monitor the implementation of this historic Right. Thus we see it took a long time even to establish as a law the moral right of children for education.

Article 21-A and the RTE Act came into force on April 1, 2010. Thus India became one of 135 countries to make education a fundamental right of every child, and moved forward to a rights based framework that puts a legal obligation on the Central and State Governments to implement this fundamental right of a child as enshrined in the Constitution. It is a historic act in the sense that the right to education will be accorded the same legal status as the right to life as provided by Article 21A of the Indian Constitution, and thus it becomes a right of first category. This is something commendable indeed! Though the elusive goal of providing free and compulsory education until the age of 14 has been reiterated over the past years, no effective steps are taken to achieve it within a limited time frame.

Much long before this legal journey of the moral right to education, the Society of Jesus had entered into the field of education in India. Today in India the Society of Jesus has established 386 Schools, 30 Technical Institutions, 35 University Colleges, and 1 University with 14,000 teachers, educating over 4,00,000 students, belonging to every social class, community and linguistic group. And now it has also pioneered into non-formal education along with remedial teaching of weaker students. This is in keeping with the conviction that every child has a right to quality education. Giving remedial classes and special tuitions for children especially coming from economically weaker sections of the society, the Society, with its Ignatian magis, has already ventured into the margins of society.

John Chathanatt, SJ is a core group member of the GIAN for the Right to Quality Education.

Fixing the cycle: an education opportunity for imprisoned people

Fixing the cycle: an education opportunity for imprisoned people

  • Posted: Jan 26, 2016 -
  • By: -

For most of us, education is the solid foundation to life. It teaches us, it nurtures us, it inspires us. Education can set us on the path that defines our adult lives and our careers.

But not everybody is fortunate enough to receive the type of education that many of us take for granted. Jesuit Social Services works with many marginalised members of our society, including people in and exiting prison.

The links between education and disadvantage – not just prison – are clear. Across all of our programs (in areas including justice, employment and training and mental health), just 13 per cent of people have completed high school and many have exposure to issues such as substance abuse and family violence.

It is a similar picture within the prison system in Victoria, Australia, where Jesuit Social Services is headquartered, and where just six per cent of male and 14 per cent of female prisoners have completed secondary school or higher education.

We know that without the foundation of education, many vulnerable people can find themselves dealing with a web-like structure of disadvantage. For example, a lack of education makes finding employment more difficult which in turn can lead to housing insecurity or homelessness, mental health problems or criminal activity.

Victoria’s recidivism rate is also at a 10-year high of almost 40 percent, meaning close to half the people who exit prison return. This comes at a significant cost to the state’s budget, and also at the expense of vital community services such as education, housing and mental health that work to prevent crime before it occurs. In order to break this cycle of disadvantage, poverty and lack of opportunities, we have partnered with Victoria’s correctional system and other community service organisations to create supported pathways into education, into community, and into employment for people who have been engaged with the justice system.

We work with men and women leaving prison to support them to identify their work opportunities and what they need to do to obtain a new position and to maintain their employment. With funding support provided by the Sisters of Charity in Australia, we also provide women exiting prison with one to one mentoring and support to re-enter their family and community life.

In addition to this we have assisted more than 400 people who have received a community work order in place of a prison term to not only contribute positively to the community, but to also improve their skills so that they have better opportunity to undertake further education or employment .

Our focus is on practical, hands-on project work with flexible assessment strategies to accommodate the various learning styles and needs of participants. We also employ skilled and qualified trainers and volunteers, who are carefully matched to each program. These programs help participants to gain real-world skills and qualifications that will assist them to find ongoing employment – in addition to the valuable experience they receive in working as part of a team, collaborating with others and developing a healthy routine.

Two examples of such programs are:

Fix the Cycle is a program for young men aged 18 to 25, who have had contact with the criminal justice system. Participants help to repair and assemble bicycles, which are later donated to community members in need, while developing mechanical skills, problem solving, planning and literacy and numeracy skills. Units of competency are also embedded into the program to formalise skills and learnings and create pathways to further employment. The Dandenong Drug Court Project is a community work program for adult men on community service orders. Participants work as a team to landscape the Drug Court’s garden and local surroundings, and like Fix the Cycle, units of competency are embedded into the program. As well as training in landscaping and horticulture, participants develop skills in teamwork and project management.

To understand how these programs literally change lives, we only need to look at the example of a young man who engaged with Fix the Cycle and gained ongoing employment as a motor mechanic at a major car dealer in addition to completing an apprenticeship. He says “my participation in the program gave me discipline, taught me about fixing things and mechanics and the importance of being on time.”

These are just two examples of innovative programs in which we partner with some of the most vulnerable members of the community, ensuring that their pathway out of prison and into the community is a positive one.

About the author: Julie Edwars is CEO of Jesuit Social Services, an Australian social change organisation working to build a just society. Julie was appointed the leader of the Core Group of the Mineral Resources GIAN in 2012.