By Colin Saxton – General Secretary
When it comes to educational work, Friends United Meeting’s schools in Ramallah, Belize and Kaimosi are well known and well understood. Ramallah Friends School is recognized worldwide as an exceptional place of study, rooted in Quaker values and serving as a symbol of hope in city and region under occupation with a constant threat of violence. Belize Friends School gives inner-city children a second-chance at education, a loving environment and an introduction to Christian teachings and teachers. It is a gateway to a brighter future that might otherwise not exist for some of our students. Friends Theological College, located in Kaimosi, is an essential training ground for pastors, chaplains and other ministers. Maybe more than any FUM ministry in East Africa, FTC has the opportunity and responsibility to nurture the theological and spiritual experience of Friends and help shape the church for the next generation.
Less well-known across FUM is the work our African Ministries Office does with the 1500+ primary and secondary schools that carry the name of Friends in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. In a unique private/public partnership with their respective governments, Friends (and other churches) retain a level of control over the content and character of their schools, even as public money funds much of the day-to-day operation of each campus.
The active involvement of Friends in these schools is critically important. The sponsoring denomination is responsible to determine the spiritual training and experience of the student body. Friends’ chaplains, when provided, can build deep and loving relationships with students as mentors, counselors and care-givers. In Friends’ schools, we have had the opportunity to introduce a peace curriculum (with help from Friends in North America) to give students practical training in conflict resolution, mediation and non-violence, in addition to the biblical understanding from which all of these arise. Over time, our goal is to have this curriculum taught throughout every Friends’ school in East Africa, with the possibility that it might be adopted and used in other schools, as well. In talking with a group of Friends about this project, one Kenyan brother spoke about losing several members of his family in the 2008 election violence. His conclusion is that the peace curriculum is the single greatest hope for transforming the violence and prejudice that continues to tear at and divide along tribal lines. In so many ways, these schools have the opportunity to help form countless lives.
Thanks to a generous grant from Friends in Britain, FUM was able to hire Zadock Malesi as our African Ministries Office education secretary two years ago. Zadock has worked with each yearly meeting’s education secretary to provide leadership training for school administrators, encourage excellence in teaching, nurture Friends’ values in schools and devote some time to the implementation of the peace curriculum.
As announced elsewhere in this issue, we concluded our staff contract with Zadock in December 2014. The initial two-year grant has been used. By now, we had hoped to see more funding for this project come from among East African Friends and through an income generating project dedicated to raising money for this work. Unfortunately, a place of long-term financial sustainability in these areas has not yet been realized.
The education work, however, remains essential — and a FUM priority — for the future. Think about the opportunity involved in this work. In each these 1500+
schools there are hundreds, sometimes thousands of students, most of whom are not Friends. What would it mean to give each child a great education? To give each one a loving Christian example? An introduction to Friends? Tools and training as peacemakers? An experience in a community known for its love and integrity? A life-changing encounter with Christ? The knowledge and skills to do honest and meaningful work?
We are not finished with this project. Right now, we have some further work to do to establish a core of committed leaders who will encourage and continue what has already been accomplished. We are establishing some new goals and are looking at additional funding options to build a more sustainable base of support. I expect we will once again employ a staff person to oversee this ministry and coordinate the activities. We will need someone in that role — it is that important. In the mean time, please remember these children and the opportunity we all have to see their lives inspired by a Friends education.