, 27 May, 2020 / 12:11 AM
Seminarians at St. Pierre Major Seminary in Burkina Faso are going to benefit from a financial donation from the international Catholic charity organization, Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), offered to support the fight against the possible spread of COVID-19 at the Kossoghin-based institution in the Central part of the West African nation.
The Germany-based ACN reported its intervention worth €14.000.00 (US$15,250.00) in a message published on its website Tuesday, May 26, making reference to Fr. Théophile Gnimian Dabilougou, the Bursar of St. Pierre Major Seminary who, in his April 29 letter, had explained how the over 300 seminarians risked contracting and spreading COVID-19.
The seminarians are sharing washrooms, a situation that thwarts efforts that have been put in place by the management of the Seminary to combat the possible spread of the coronavirus.
“The main measure affecting the Seminary is confinement. The seminarians are invited to stay in their individual rooms, to reduce the interaction with others and use of the common rooms such as the library, the computer room,” said Fr. Théophile.
According to the Priest, the more than 250 seminarians who stay at the institution were forced to share just over 30 washrooms, forcing 8 seminarians to share a single shower room and toilet, a situation that he said was increasing contagion in the common rooms.
“The sanitary situation of the seminary is disastrous. The number of toilets and showers is largely insufficient compared to the increasing number of seminarians,” Fr. Théophile said.
He added in reference to the seminarians who stay at the facility, “Indeed, the seminary has 33 toilets and 33 showers for 254 seminarians, so one shower and one washroom for 8 seminarians.”
The objective of the seminary, the Priest said, was to have one shower and one toilet being used by three seminarians, which, in his view, would be a manageable number.
“If the sanitary situation of the Seminary does not improve the risk of contagious diseases is high,” he said.
Highlighting some of the measures that had been put in place to further contain the spread of the coronavirus at the institution that has a total of 306 seminarians, Fr. Théophile said the institution had focused on sensitizing both staff and seminarians on best safety practices.
The Major Seminary has 254 seminarians at its boarding section while an additional 52 are day scholars.
“So far, the response of the (Major) Seminary of Philosophy to the coronavirus pandemic has been to sensitize staff, students and teachers to the dangers of the virus, to popularize the national directives and the directives given by the Bishops,” said Fr. Théophile.
The Seminary has also set up rules of hygiene in the offices and in common rooms, to reduce the spiritual activities in the community, apart from suspending academic activities including courses, homework and evaluations.
All the measures notwithstanding, the Burkinabe Cleric expresses concern that the use of common spaces and common objects remain a risk and can be a source of propagation of COVID-19, underscoring the need to find strategies to reduce the risks of contamination.
He advocates for a change in behavior that aims at the adoption of good hygiene practices at both individual and community level saying, “As the seminar is a place of training and human education, these sensitizing and prevention measures come at the right time to complete the lessons usually given to the seminarians.”
With no hydro-alcoholic gels, which are recommended in the COVID-19 fight, lack of masks and infrared thermometers, few outdoor washing facilities and insufficient waste bins, the Seminary is, however, not equipped to keep up with the fight, Fr. Théophile says.
“This is a major challenge to be met because without a minimum of suitable protective and preventive devices and equipment, the barrier measures cannot be observed,” he writes.
Apart from health challenges, the confinement puts the seminarians at risk of losing their academic year and undergoing a watered-down training, which Fr. Théophile says will be “a source of deficiencies, gaps and frustrations and disabling for the future.”
“Confinement cannot therefore imply a halt to the spiritual and especially academic formation of students,” the priest says in his letter published on ACN website Tuesday, May 26.
To furnish the online learning requirements for the 306 seminarians, the Seminary is planning to install an online teaching platform, to equip the seminarians with laptops, and to facilitate access to the Internet.
“The needs arise in a context where the dioceses of origin of the seminarians cannot suddenly be solicited (for funds) because they are experiencing a considerable decrease in their resources,” the priest says, referring to the situation where Church celebrations are suspended amid “rare gestures of solidarity of the faithful.”
And with a €14.000.00 (US$15,250.00) donation from ACN, the Seminary will also purchase medical-sanitary equipment in its awareness-raising action to prevent COVID-19.
Announcing the monetary donation on its website that details support to other places in need, ACN notes, “May we pray for them during this challenging time, so God can fill their hearts with hope and strengthen their faith.”
ACI Africa was officially inaugurated on August 17, 2019 as a continental Catholic news agency at the service of the Church in Africa. Headquartered in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, this media apostolate will strive to facilitate the telling of Africa’s story by providing media coverage of Catholic events on the African continent, giving visibility to the activities of the Church across Africa where statistics show significant growth in numbers and the continent gradually becoming the axis of Catholicism. This is expected to contribute to an awareness of and appreciation for the significant role of the Church in Africa and over time, the realization of a realistic image of Africa that often receives negative media framing.
Father Don Bosco Onyalla
Editor-in-Chief, ACI Africa