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.