by Russell Pollitt SJ

“Education is the most powerful weapon we can use to change the world” – Nelson Mandela

The Christian Church has always been involved in education. Some of the world’s top schools and tertiary institutions were started by missionaries. Many of them are still under the auspices of the Christian Church. The Church is committed to education because she believes in integral human development. Educators, at their best, are not training young people for careers. They are forming minds and hearts. They are investing in the future. Education is the safeguard of our constitution. Education is the safeguard of our freedom. A good education instils hope and hope builds a better future. A better future is one in which there is equality and peace for all.

A Chinese proverb reads: “Learning is a treasure that follows its owner everywhere.” I wonder if we believe that? If we really believe that education is a treasure, an indispensable treasure, why is it that so many children in our country don’t have or struggle to gain access to basic education? Why is it that, in some places in our country, children are offered an abysmal education in poor conditions that compromises their futures? Government, parents, civil society and the religious community still have a lot of work to do. Some of that work is repenting for failing our children. Some of it is facing the education system’s problems head on. Most of it is learning to talk less, roll up our sleeves, and do the hard lifting work that shapes our future.

Lord God,

As the new academic year begins we ask you to help us face the challenges ahead.

Help us to treat education as a treasure and to treasure the young that we educate.

May we seek repentance for the young people we have failed, and work hard to ensure these failures are not repeated.

AMEN.