Our summer holiday period has come to a close here in Australia, as many homes and families begin to adjust (back) into the school year. My own six-year-old took his new toy plush this morning, looked him in the eye and counselled as only a sage of astute wisdom can do: Now, Robin, I’m going back to school today. I’m going back to my normal routine, which means I’ll be at school. It’s a bit different for you because you haven’t quite done this [experienced this] before, but it’s OK… Cow will be here, and Batman too. And my mum will be home to play with you.” I marvelled at his words and actions and the way in which he understood that a new pace of life will be put in motion. My son also accepts that it’s part of his role, his ‘job’ at this stage of his life, to go to school.
It’s important to remember that for many children in the world, education is a privilege. There are those who want it and are willing to risk their lives for it, and on the other end of the spectrum, there are those who begrudge it. But receiving an education, whether it’s appreciated or not, is inevitably a gift that engages and enables life.
Shabana Basij-Rasikh is a courageous young Afghan woman, whose story is one that values and embraces the importance of education. In the following TED talk, she speaks of the devotion and determination of her family who, contrary to custom and the law, made sure that she and her sister went to school. Of her father, she says, “There was no question that his children would receive an education, including his daughters, despite the Taliban, despite the risks. To him, there was greater risk in not educating his children.”
The task of educating people, especially girls, has been present since the beginning of the FCJ Society. Marie Madeleine saw to it that boarding houses, schools and centres for the support and betterment of women’s lives were established. To this very day, education remains a prolific part of Mme d’Houët’s legacy, and further more, is instrumental in the shaping and forming of young people in the ways of the gospel. Its importance, though we may take it for granted from time to time, must never be overlooked.
We remember all those who are not fortunate to receive a safe and sound education. We remember all students, teachers and members of the community that work and devote their time and gifts, in this domain. We give thanks for our teachers, our guides and mentors, for our parents and families who’ve supported and continue to support our learning, regardless of our age. We ask for the graces of wisdom and discernment, that we may continually open and avail ourselves mentally and spiritually to the new and different ways in which God calls us to life.
In relaying the story of my son, I wish to highlight the grace of detachment, shown in his ease of transition. As much as he loved his school holidays, he accepts that he has to change his routine, and thankfully (or hopefully!) continues to welcome each change. Each day is a wonderful gift in his eyes, and I know in myself that I can learn a great deal from my children.
Often change can be unnerving. It has to do with uncertainty and letting go. Nervousness builds up on the first day, be it at school, university or in a job. We are always ‘new’ at some stage, new to a group, new to a family, new to a community. Being able to adapt is part of surviving, and without change, we cannot thrive. Even people who’ve been at the same place, in the same community or state of life for their entire existence also encounter opportunities for change. Where change is unsettling, subtlety and gentleness are key to a happy transition. What my son said to his toy is an example of quiet confidence and gentle affection that we can emulate, as adults. A kind word, a gesture of tenderness and the gift of presence to another can turn what seems unpleasant, into something more bearable.
Another remarkable example of education-for-life is the story of architect and community-builder, Diébédo Francis Kéré.
Click here for a list of FCJ current educational centres and institutions around the world.