Excitement builds in Malawi for new Jesuit secondary school

Students from St. Joseph Primary School in Kasungu, Malawi  cheer for the construction of Loyola Jesuit Secondary School, during a recent visit. (CNS/Courtesy Loyola Jesuit Secondary School)

Students from St. Joseph Primary School in Kasungu, Malawi, cheer for the construction of Loyola Jesuit Secondary School, during a recent visit. (CNS/Courtesy Loyola Jesuit Secondary School)

Students in Malawi soon will be able to continue their education in a Jesuit secondary school.

Loyola Jesuit Secondary School in the rural community of Kasungu is nearing completion. Father Peter Henriot, an American Jesuit, tells Catholic News Service the school will welcome its first 125 students in September.

He said excitement is building in the community, population 60,000 about 75 miles from the capital of Lilongwe, as construction enters its final phase on the boarding school that will enroll boys and girls.

While the Malawi government acknowledges the importance of education, few students go on to secondary school. Statistically, less than 25 percent of boys and less than 20 percent of girls continue their education after eighth grade.

“You don’t have development unless you are educating the youth. Education is key, and education in a poor rural area is important. And you don’t have justice unless you are educating the girls,” Father Henriot said.

Joining the Jesuits in the project are the country’s bishops and Malawi’s Ministry of Education, Science and Technology.

By opening the school the Jesuits in the order’s Zambia-Malawi province want to improve access to education for teenage students in what is one of the world’s poorest and most densely populated nations. Through education, the economy can diversify, and the dire poverty that afflicts the overwhelming majority of Malawi’s 15 million residents can be eased.

“We use the expression ‘It’s an option for the poor,’” Father Henriot said.

Because the school is a grant-aided institution, the Malawian government will pay the salaries of teachers. That leaves the school to raise money for necessities such as books, desks, equipment and technology. Tuition is set at $400 per year. Plans call for financial assistance to be provided to students whose family cannot afford tuition.

Jesuit Father Peter Henriot

Jesuit Father Peter Henriot

Father Henriot said an additional 125 students will be enrolled annually, bringing total enrollment to about 500 students in September 2018. Students will come from throughout Malawi.

He said the site was chosen because of its location — near the Jesuit-run St. Joseph Parish — and the availability of the land, which tribal leaders readily allowed the congregation to use.

Raising funds for the project is Father Henriot’s job. He works alongside Jesuit Father Alojz Podgrajsek, project manager.

The first phase of construction will cost about $9.5 million. Furnishings and equipment will cost another $2.5 million

Plans call for a second round of construction to begin in 2015. That will include more dormitories, a chapel, health clinic and larger library. Father Henriot said he hopes the entire project will be finished by the time for the first graduation ceremony in 2018.

The Jesuits also are looking to buy a 125-acre farm about four miles from the school. Father Henriot said the farm will provide food for the school and income from surplus crops, employ local residents and allow students to “get their hands dirty learning about agriculture.”

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