|Education, from the Latin, “educare”, means “to draw out”. A teacher works with a student in order to “draw out” that student’s potential, to help that student realize all that she or he is capable of.
Education has always been an important value in our Jewish and Christian traditions. The Torah, the Word of God, is something of inestimable value to the Jewish people, and one cannot study the Torah if one cannot read. Thus, the great emphasis on literacy among our Jewish ancestors. The intellectual life is greatly prized in Jewish culture, why is probably so the Jewish people have produced so many amazing intellectuals throughout human history.
The importance of education is inherited by our Christian forebears and so reading and writing continue to be important values in early and medieval Christianity. When Saint Benedict flees the decadence of Rome during the collapse of the Roman Empire and goes to Subiaco, where he subsequently founds numerous monasteries, education is at the heart of his endeavor. Benedictine monks and nuns, founded by Benedict’s sister Saint Scholastica, establish monasteries where the chanting of the Divine Office and the Celebration of the Eucharist are central to their daily lives, and for this one must be able to read. They amass large libraries of both sacred and secular texts, seeking to preserve as much of Western wisdom as possible for future generations. They establish monastic schools where both men and women can be educated.
Throughout Christian history, religious orders of women and men have placed the education of youth at the top of their apostolic priorities for centuries, founding schools, colleges, and universities throughout the world. Some religious orders, in particular, are established for the education of the poor, those left behind by society. The Brothers of the Christian Schools, founded by John Baptist de LaSalle in France in 1680, are one such order. De LaSalle insisted that all of his school should be “gratuitous”, completely free and open to the poor and the working classes. De LaSalle and his followers understood that education was the key to any kind of meaningful life and in fact that evangelization through education was the means whereby their students would attain happiness, not only in this life, but in the life to come.
This legacy continues right down to our very day. One of the projects that I consider to be the most important among the various projects undertaken by Solidarity with South Sudan is the Solidarity Teacher Training College (STTC) in Yambio. Here women and men religious from all over the world minister alongside their lay colleagues in training and forming primary school teachers for the future generations of the South Sudanese. Anyone who has studied or experienced the situation in South Sudan knows how sobering it is and how many grave challenges the people of this fledgling country are facing. After my time in South Sudan last fall, and especially my two weeks at STTC, I came away more convinced than ever that education is the only way forward for the people of this country. The situation there has virtually no hope of improving, in my opinion, without the flourishing of a vibrant educational system that equip future generations for the challenges that lie ahead.
On this “International Day of Education”, which will be celebrated on Monday 24, let us renew our commitment to doing everything in our power to provide meaningful educational opportunities for the young people of South Sudan, and indeed for the young people of impoverished countries all over the world.
“And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever” (Daniel 12:3).
21 Gen 2022
David, Mission Promoter
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