Character Formation in Kenyan Catholic Schools Motivating Non-Catholics, Prelate Testifies

Bishop Paul Kariuki Njiru, Chairman of the Commission for Education and Religious Education of the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops (KCCB)
Credit: Public Domain

The education based on values and the formation of character fostered in Catholic schools in the East African nation of Kenya is the reason behind the enrolment and retention of a high number of learners who are not themselves Catholics, a Kenyan Prelate has said.

“I am aware that a high percentage of learners in our Catholic Educational institutions are from   non-Catholic backgrounds,” the Chairman of the Commission for Education and Religious Education of the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops (KCCB), Bishop Paul Njiru Kariuki said Tuesday, March 10.

He explained in reference to learners enrolled in the Catholic schools, “This is because their parents and guardians place a lot of value on academic excellence of a Catholic school and character formation, the respect shown in our schools for beliefs, values and a higher sense of purpose.”

Bishop Kariuki was addressing hundreds of delegates at the ongoing 6th conference of Catholic Private Educational Institutions Association (CaPEIA) being held at the main campus of the Catholic University of Eastern Africa (CUEA) in Nairobi.

He encouraged the estimated 600 delegates drawn from Catholic schools in the various dioceses of Kenya to foster the values he highlighted as significant in motivating learners saying, “As leaders you must live to these expectations.”

Noting that Catholic schools mould learners holistically, the Local Ordinary of Kenya’s Embu Diocese further told the delegates, “It is for this reason that you must pay greater attention to Catholic identity and spiritual formation of all learners, teachers and staff.”

The Catholic identity and spiritual formation are two values that those at the helm of Catholic schools “cannot afford to compromise,” the Kenyan Prelate said, adding that safeguarding them is essential “more now when secularism, freedom without responsibility and declining levels of godliness are being witnessed in our society.”

The two values are about having the learners “experience God first hand” and giving them “a chance to understand the beliefs, purposes, issues and practices of Catholic faith for their spiritual transformation and character development,” the 57-year-old Kenyan Prelate said at the beginning of the four-day conference March 10.

“This is what gives the learners confidence to make informed choices while they are still in school and well into their future,” he underscored.

The conference is being held under the theme, “Catholic Schools – Agents of Values based Education,” inspired by Titus 2:1: “You must teach what agrees with sound doctrine.”

“Values Based Education calls on us to ensure that all the teaching and learning in our educational institutions is strengthened with Gospel and human values,” Bishop Kariuki said and highlighted values in Galatians 5:22-26 including “love, joy, peace, kindness, faithfulness, patience, gentleness, self –control, and forgiveness.”

He went on to advocate for the establishment of “some basic ethos as the pillar of our practicing these values in a concrete manner” in Catholic schools as well as “an education which teaches critical thinking and encourages the development of mature moral values in learners.”

He added, “It is only possible to have a value-based life if we, our learners, teachers, staff and parents have a relationship with Jesus Christ the source of the values. Therefore, our educational institutions must train and equip the learners with skills to “have the courage to go against the tide of current values that do not conform to the path of Jesus (Pope Francis).”

Making reference to Kenya’s Competency Based Curriculum (CBC), which teaches values of love, peace, unity, responsibility, respect, integrity, patriotism, social justice and fairness, Bishop Kariuki noted, “Values are one of the pillars of CBC, therefore, our educational institutions have a great opportunity to further our evangelization agenda through effectively implementing the CBC.”

The Bishop’s message to the delegates seems consistent with that of the Vatican-based Congregation for Catholic Education, which affirms, “The project of the Catholic school is convincing only if carried out by people who are deeply motivated, because they witness to a living encounter with Christ, in whom alone the mystery of man truly becomes clear.”

These persons, therefore, the Congregation adds, “acknowledge a personal and communal adherence with the Lord, assumed as the basis and constant reference of the inter-personal relationship and mutual cooperation between educator and student.’’

The conference has brought together participants among them education secretaries and religious advisers from Kenya’s 26 dioceses, Catholic school Principals, Headteachers and Directors of Catholic private institutions. Sr. My-Lan Nguyen, a representative from the Swiss Federation of Catholic Schools, is in attendance.

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
[email protected]