To the Laos - To the People of God - January 2017
Dear People of God,
On January 6th, we celebrated the Feast of the Epiphany, reminding us of the manifestation of God to all. For our context today, I want to paraphrase this by expressing it in terms of the liberation, the enlightening, the empowering and the “making able” of all God’s children in order to engage with God in his world and with one another so that none is dominated nor demeaned. Education embodies this vision. Hence, in keeping with our ACSA missional priority of “nurture of the young” this Ad Laos is dedicated to education.
Our Anglican Board of Education (ABESA), the Anglican Students' Federation, the Synod of Bishops and other organisations within our Church have been consulting in recent months on how we can engage with the crisis on our campuses in South Africa and beyond. The South African Council of Churches has also been taking initiatives and a number of our bishops have been responding to developments on campuses in their dioceses, among them the bishops of Pretoria, Johannesburg, Grahamstown, Port Elizabeth and the Free State.
Good education is, as I have said before, at the heart of our capacity to realise our Provincial Vision, “Anglicans Act”. Although the South African matric pass rate has improved, the quality of our school-leavers' education still needs a lot of improvement. And it is critical both for fulfilment in the lives of young people, and for the health of our society, that the burgeoning growth in tertiary education is well managed, sustainably financed, and kept at the highest possible level of educational quality.
As in the 1976 generation, young people today are bypassing their parents and demanding to be treated as adults who can negotiate their own educational destinies. Meanwhile the Government triggered their anger last year by sidelining its own commission on higher education, and announcing a fee increase for 2017 unilaterally. No wonder young people feel abused, marginalised and degraded.
At the same time, many young people speak of their vulnerability when it feels as if their parents’ generation – families, teachers and the churches – seem to have left them exposed to abuse, violence and intimidation, unheard and unaccompanied in deep waters. We need to redress that by standing with our students, listening to them and shielding them from danger.
When church leaders went to pray at Parliament after a student march in Cape Town last year, there was a warm response as if somehow there was a dimension missing in the conflict – something spiritual which many students knew from their upbringing, and which they miss in secular dialogue.
So what can we do?
We already have the first Sunday in February each year designated as Education Sunday across the Province, a time to pray for educators, learners and institutions of learning at the beginning of the school year. We want to urge this year that we observe this day, SUNDAY 5 FEBRUARY 2017 with special events not only at churches but ecumenically at schools and where possible on campuses where we have access through Anglican students, administrators or chaplaincy ministry.
This is a time to listen and to be close to people not only in the tertiary sector but as the crisis extends, as it will, to high schools and across society. Our presence, our prayers and where appropriate, our parenting are needed, alongside our prophecy where the powerful have also been absent and unapproachable, or simply overwhelmed.
We all know how disabled our education systems have been, especially in South Africa but also through the colonial histories of other countries which make up the subcontinent which ACSA seeks to serve. Building healthy education systems in all our nations is a critical priority to which ACSA has long been devoted. As we do so, there are people full of passion and potential for whom we have to care.
Please observe Education Sunday with special intent for universities and colleges in the tertiary education sector this year!
God bless you
†Thabo Cape Town