In the era of
the coronavirus pandemic, the world of education faces major challenges. Even
before COVID, in many parts of the world, access to education was not guaranteed
for all children, especially girls.
COVID-19 has closed many schools and isolated young people from each
other. While in many places distance access programmes have been developed, it
is clear that the experience of online learning does not replace the closeness
of a teacher to his or her group of students. This is especially the case for
young people with learning difficulties, for whom current conditions may
accentuate their lagging behind. Or even cause them to drop out of school.
magazine AMERICA (USA), has drawn
attention to these shortcomings of distance education, stressing how social
interrelationships are an important part of the educational experience,
especially during the early stages of schooling.
The same publication, in another article, looked at an important dimension of
what is offered in Jesuit institutions, this time in colleges and universities.
Campus ministry has had to renew and reinvent itself. The activities of campus
ministry have always been based on proximity, interpersonal relations,
individual or group support. Open virtual chat rooms, online counselling,
celebrations on Zoom and proposals of meditation tools and even Ignatian yoga
podcasts have been developed everywhere.
In almost every country in the world where the
Society of Jesus is present, it is often known primarily for its educational
institutions. Yes, we can think of famous universities, but also of a large number
of secondary schools that proudly bear the names of Ignatius, Xavier,
Bellarmine, Gonzaga. Above all, we must not forget important networks of
schools that serve first and foremost young people from underprivileged
backgrounds, young people who, without the contribution of the Jesuits'
experience in education, could quickly find themselves among the excluded of
the world in the making. We think here of the Fe y Alegría (Faith and Joy) network launched in Latin America but
which continues to spread to other parts of the world, including Africa. There
are also the Nativity Schools and Christo Rey networks which, in the United
States, primarily serve immigrant populations.