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Marist Superiors and School Management Teams

16/02/2013: Zimbabwe

Eight Brothers and eight laypersons assembled at Marist Nyanga in the shadow of Mount Mouz for the meeting. It’s been quite a number of years since the previous such encounter for the purpose of networking and updating as well as shared planning among the three institutions i.e. Marist Kutama, Dete and Nyanga.

On the first day, the Chair, Br. Fortune Chakasara, welcomed everyone and congratulated the heads and administration of the different institutions for the development and successes that have been celebrated for the Marist schools in the nation. With regard to the word “successes” he stressed the need to move “from success to significance”. “What identifies us as Marist Schools? How Marist are our schools?  With these stimulating questions the floor was opened for comment

Br. Aaron Mazhambe presented A report on the Survey of various Catholic Schools in Zimbabwe which he took part in as an initiative of Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops Conference, in 2012. The informative report sampling Catholic schools in the eight dioceses of Zimbabwe,   revealed problems ranging from poor management and administration to indiscipline of teachers and students leading to poor performance.

Then Br. Mazhambe elucidated what a Catholic School should be, making use of a line from the Vatican II document on education: “Catholic schools should act as a leaven of the community”. How can this be done? Only through a Catholic ethos in our schools, and for us a school run on Marist educational principles. Groups were asked to discuss how these principles are actually implemented. The feedbacks were impressive and common grounds of improvement were noted.

On the second day, Br. Emmanuel Mwanalirenji presented the essence of Marist pedagogy. With a psychological perspective he underlined the complexity of teaching the modern generation. Who are our clients? Why do Marist schools exist in this so called technological age? As we deal with adolescents, our leadership should be distinct and firm yet empathetic and congruent with Marist principles. The pupils are active agents in their education and as such they take the central position. Success should not so much be judged in terms of results but rather we have loved them all equally and led them to discover their holistic potential. We need to seek negative evidence - evidence that shows we are not succeeding. The administration and staff should be on their toes to ensure that students are really being cared for.

Later, heads presented their schools: population statistics including percentage of Catholics; religious programs, activities; solidarity projects, discipline, projects and maintenance, finances, academic results and major challenges. These sessions were both informative and inspiring. Marist schools are benefitting students, staff and surrounding communities. The pass rates are outstanding and each school is ranked high in its region and also nationally. However, challenged Br Fortune, “It’s time to move from success to significance.” Though all the schools are full, in every case the percentage of Catholics (both students and staff) is declining. A significant Catholic presence among students and staff fosters our mission: to make Jesus known and loved!

Income-generating projects were dealt with, those at Marist Kutama, are flourishing: poultry, cattle ranching, gardening, green house farming, piggery, uniform tailoring and tuck-shop. Administrations need to reflect and act on developing self-reliance.

All the schools’ finances are audited twice a year, leading to successful budgeting and transparent accounting. The fees charged in the three schools are fair and the payment terms and conditions friendly to the needy are in place.

The religious programs in the three schools have a number of common elements: the celebration of the Holy Mass; catechism programs; common prayers; and religious clubs led by Brothers and dedicated lay people. These clubs are noted for their solidarity projects with the surrounding poor communities.

The most pressing problem is student indiscipline, including graffiti, going out of bounds, bullying, vandalism and clandestine use of digital devices. Solutions were discussed: e.g. having dedicated boarding masters in the hostels, increased supervision during study sessions, stress on vigilance and consistent presence of staff, and developing counseling in the schools.

The final session included evaluation and suggestions for successive meetings. Sincere thanks and praise were given to the Brothers’ initiative in arranging the meeting. Marist Nyanga was duly thanked as the host centre: it will be Kutama’s turn next year.

The Marist vision for education is very rich” expressed some of the lay participants. “There is need to help other schools participate in such an inspiration and vision.

After Brother Fortune’s closing remarks laying an emphasis on solidarity projects, delegates were treated to a game drive and barbeque in the Nyanga National Park. Champagnat’s dream lives on.

(Br. Tererai. Gijima FMS. Abridged – Ed.)

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