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Marist Bulletin - Number 281


An interview with Brother Joseph Udeajah, Principal of the MIC

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Brother Joseph UDEAJAH is a Nigerian from birth and he also belongs to the Marist Province of Nigeria. He was born in 1947 and he started his Marist life as a postulant at the age of 23. From the beginnings of his professional career he devoted himself to educational tasks, especially in Uturu, as well as to the animation of community life and the promotion of vocations. He was appointed Provincial of Nigeria. Since 2005 he has been the Principal of the Marist International College (MIC) of Nairobi.

Br. AMEstaún. MIC was created as a Center to qualify the religious and professional formation of the Marist Brothers in Africa. 20 years have gone since its foundation. As you look backwards, how do you see the path this institution has walked?
Br. Joseph Udeajah.
There is a sense in which the founding vision of MIC remains – to undertake the post-novitiate formation of our young Brothers from Africa and Madagascar according to the Formation Guide and other Institute documents with the changing needs of the African Continent always before us.

African Marist reality has evolved in a remarkable way during the past 20 years. Which are the present objectives of MIC in relation to the Brothers’ formation?
Our main objective still remains the same – formation of well integrated and convinced Marist apostle of youth capable of making Jesus known and loved in any of our Marist apostolic fields.

The educational needs in Africa are quite diversified. Some refer to getting the basic knowledge, some others to the practical application of that knowledge, some others are related to school management and to leadership for an efficient evangelization. Which are the areas of specialization that MIC plan of studies offer?
In terms of educational needs, we seek to offer our young Brothers an initial, integrated spiritual and academic formation which will allow them to be inserted into the Marist apostolate. We would see specialization as a later stage of formation best undertaken and promoted by the particular administrative unit in the light of their particular needs. The academic program at MIC offers each young Brother a sound basic formation in Religious Studies and in another teaching subject both to honors degree level. We regard this as a solid basis for engaging in a variety of Marist Apostolic activities related to young people in various settings.

The student Brothers at MIC are coming from various countries, with specific school organization and education systems. The studies done at MIC, are they valid for all those countries? What is the academic authority backing the degrees and diplomas that MIC offers?
The degrees and diplomas are awarded by The Catholic University of Eastern Africa (CUEA) of which MIC is one of the constituent colleges. CUEA degrees are recognized in most of the countries in the African Continent in which we Marists are present and are recognized as appropriate qualification for entry into post-graduate courses.

Which are the educational guidelines that MIC fosters in order to promote educators who are integrated in each people’s culture and who are at the service of poor children and youngsters?
Part of the formation program of our young Brothers is Apostolic Formative Activity (AFA) which gives the young Brothers the opportunity to work directly with young people on a weekly basis, often in the slum areas of Nairobi. They also at the end of their second year have a community experience in their own Administrative Unit which exposes them to and involves them in the work of the Administrative Unit. At the end of their third year the young Brothers undertake a 14-week block of Teaching Practice in rural rather than urban settings. Here, they not only witness poverty but in their communities of three or four, they have to live it. It is an extremely valuable experience which integrates the community and apostolic aspects of our Marist vocation.

In our Marist tradition, we enhance some pedagogical traits that characterize our educational approach and that make a difference when we compare them with other ways to face the education of children and young people. Which ones of those traits would you like to enhance in the pedagogy that formators at MIC apply?
Study of Marist pedagogy is an integral part of the formation program of our young Brothers. In relation to Q5 the option for the poor is an aspect which is stressed as well as Champagnat’s exhortation that our primary call is ‘to make Jesus known and loved’ and further that we must love the children. This call never to harm a child is brought home to our young Brothers when they witness the corporal punishment meted out to students during their 14-week block of Teaching Practice. Our young Brothers react to this situation with same horror that Champagnat did when he witnessed a teacher strike a pupil.

The Marist presence in 18 countries of Africa and Madagascar is related to the various activities of the Catholic Church. What are the challenges that Catholic Church present to MIC?
Indeed, Marist presence is related to the various activities of the Church. Nevertheless, we see the work of MIC as preparing our young Brothers to be involved in that particular aspect of our Marist charism related to the education of young people, especially the poor.

Most of the students at MIC are Marist Brothers. I have met some former students of MIC in different countries. How many groups of Brothers have come out from MIC? What is their impact on Marist Africa?
Fourteen groups of Brothers have come out of MIC. Some of those Brothers are the Provincials and District Superior of some of the Administrative Units in Africa, some are provincial councilors, a good number of them are working in our various formation centres in Africa including MIC, many of them are heads of our various schools and projects in our provinces.

Recently the Board of Marist Superiors of Africa decided to change the “Marist Center” into “College”. What motivated this change? What are the practical implications of this change?
This is not quite accurate. MIC as Marist International Centre remains, but the two components of Community and College have been separated for administrative purposes. This allows for the development of the academic component which hopefully will allow not only greater choice being available in the options open to the students (including our young Brothers) but will make the academic component of the formation of the young Brothers financially viable and so relieve the Aus of a significant amount of financial burden they bear. We should see an increase in the number of ‘lay’ students. At the same time it allows us, among the new programs we will offer, to make our own ‘option for the poor’ in which we give those students a second chance, who for a whole variety of reasons, often social and financial, have not gained qualifications for entry to University at the end of their secondary schooling.

At the beginning, MIC was only for the formation of young Marist Brothers. Today MIC offers new plans of studies and is open to other institutions. How do you see the future of the College?
It was recognized very early on that MIC should be open to meeting the needs of a wider constituency than our own young Brothers, and in so doing meet the challenge of education facing the wider Church in Africa. (The first group of non Marists were admitted in MIC in 1989 just three years after the establishment of MIC). For the most part it has been Sisters from various religious Institutes who have enrolled for the Religious Studies degree of the Pontifical Urbaniana University. More recently those qualified for entry to a CUEA degree have also enrolled. The present changes now opens up MIC to an even larger constituency where our aim will continue to be the formation of our young Brothers as well as other religious and lay people in a whole variety of aspects of education to meet the needs of the Church and young people in Africa and Madagascar.

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