I came to the Philippines prepared to see respectful behaviour in the classroom towards teachers and elders as well as attention towards learning; features of schooling from my culture of origin. I was not disappointed. In fact, there was an elation of spirit in observing these attributes of formation through a Catholic education. What I was not prepared for, was the depth and breadth of education for transformation and its resultant justice action.
We visited two elite Catholic girls schools. It was inspirational to see the entire community in these schools living out their mission of service as one heartbeat, speaking the same language of love in action, justice and stewardship. We were inspired by these communities committed to expressing their Catholic identity as a response to justice.
In stark contrast to privilege the lack of resources and the deteriorating state of the building and classrooms at Columban Institute were a sobering reality. The conversation with the Principal revealed the school borrows from the local co-operative on interest, to pay teacher salaries. Many teachers leave Catholic Education to teach in government schools due to the huge disparity in income.
Tuloy Sa Don Bosco is an “exclusive school for the poor”, where the underprivileged children are privileged through the belief that God is hope. Children who would be otherwise living on the streets are given values for life so that they learn to esteem themselves as worthwhile contributors like any other citizen. The young people to whom we spoke and through whose eyes we were privileged to see “their world” exuded pride and joy in themselves, in their surroundings and in their future. Our visit to Estanza Elementary School again demonstrated hope amongst lack of resources – we witnessed creative capital of a teacher who set up a projection device quite unlike anything previously seen and white plastic sheets used as whiteboards for projection.
Throughout the tour and all of the visits to schools and parishes, my thoughts flowed to my community of students, staff and parents back in Melbourne. What are we doing to ensure that the education we provide ensures the creating of capabilities for the greater majority in our local and extended community? What do we need to do more effectively and consistently through the curriculum to ensure that our students imbibe a Christian understanding of justice and desire a gospel-based approach to advocate for justice as a means to upholding human dignity?
I’ve been challenged in my role that classroom learning finds expression in a desire in our students, for active outreach to the needy, moving from charity to justice awareness. More importantly, that such learning is focused beyond their schooling years, on creating capabilities for the disadvantaged to enjoy the same “fullness of life” (John 10:10) that was promised by Christ unconditionally to all people.
Judeline Wadhwani, Master of Leadership Head of Faith & Mission, Marymede Catholic College