January 27, 2016
The First Annual Fe y Alegría Africa International Conference is taking place from Monday, January 25th through Sunday, January 31st, where more than 40 participants from 10 countries in Africa, Latin America and Europe are gathered together in Chad to discuss Fe y Alegría’s future on the continent. Participants include members of the International Federation of Fe y Alegría; national staff teams from Foi et Joie Chad (Fe y Alegría Chad in French), Fe y Alegría Madagascar and the Democratic Republic of the Congo; education delegates from the African Jesuit Provinces and Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS); African provincial fathers and Africa Department Coordinators from education organizations such as Alboan, Entreculturas, UNICEF and Magis Italy.
Also in attendance at the conference is the International Federation African Commission, whose members include Pablo Funes (Entreculturas-Fe y Alegría Spain Africa Department Coordinator) Etienne Mborong sj, (Foi et Joie Tchad National Director); Joaquín Ciervide sj (International Federation of Fe y Alegría Africa Consultant); Ignacio Suñol sj (current International Federation Fe y Alegría General Coordinator) and Carlos Fritzen sj (International Federation Fe y Alegría General Coordinator starting February 1st).
The conference starts off with a three-day visit to different education networks in Mongo, Chad, a rural area seven hours away from the capital, N’Djamena, where Foi et Joie Tchad operates in 26 neighborhoods led by 38 local leaders. Through 26 Parent-Student Associations, communities are becoming more and more actively involved in school life following the African “Ubuntu”philosophy, which argues that an entire town is needed to educate a child and that education should transform the entire community.
Following the visit to Mongo, conference participants will travel to N’Djamena, where they will visit Foi et Joie Tchad technical schools and observe students in training programs, such as mechanics, electronics, computing, construction and hotel management.
After conducting these group visits to current Fe y Alegría programs, participants will reflect on potential educational best practices in Africa, based on the current educational realities they are facing in their countries of origin. Taking into account the existing system of education programs and projects in Africa, and inspired by Fe y Alegría’s Latin American experience, participants will reflect on the main areas of work and intervention and develop synergies among the participating organizations on education and development in Africa.
As of 2016, there are still over 32 million girls and boys out of school in Africa, millions of which are currently living in war or conflict areas, in rural areas and/or in countries with unstable governments. In addition to these barriers, which limit access to school, a problem faced in almost every country on the continent by girls and young women, quality education is another big challenge facing education in Africa, because although school enrollment has increased, there is no guarantee of significant learning transference that allows for development opportunities. Furthermore, while student enrollment has increased since 2010, the school desertion rate has equally increased in that same time period. For example, in sub-Saharan Africa, close to 10 million children drop out of primary school every year.
The majority of African countries where the Society of Jesus is present face great limitations in the access to quality education for everyone. Fe y Alegría, as part of the Society of Jesus Network and widely acknowledged for its educational practices, will be presented as an opportunity to offer quality education to the most marginalized populations and as a leader in sustainable development on the African continent.
Fe y Alegría started in 1955 in Venezuela with the goal of offering quality education to the most impoverished and excluded populations. Currently, Fe y Alegría works with over 1.5 million students in rural communities and low income neighborhoods in 20 countries around the world. One of the largest education networks in Latin America and the Caribbean, Fe y Alegría has identified growth in Africa beyond the three countries where it has already established presence (Chad, Madagascar and the Democratic Republic of the Congo) as one of its main institutional priorities over the next five years.
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This article was originally published by Entreculturas-Fe y Alegría Spain.