CATHOLIC EDUCATION IN NIGERIA: Challenges of Child Protection and Human Sexuality

Resolutions at the End of the Third National Catholic Education Summit held at the CSN Resource Centre, Durumi, Abuja(October 15 – 18, 2018)

The Education Unit of the Church and Society Department of the Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria gathered together all Directors of Education and their representatives from all the Dioceses in Nigeria as well as Stake holders, Experts, Participants and Delegates in the field of education to the 3rd National Catholic Education Summit held at the CSN Resource Centre, Durumi, Abuja from the 15th-18th October, 2018 to discuss on the theme, “Catholic Church and Education in Nigeria: Challenges of Child Protection and Human Sexuality.”

It may be recalled that in February 2006, the 1st National Education Summit was held with the theme: “Catholic Education in Nigeria within the 21st Century.” In 2014, the 2nd Education Summit looked at the “The Impact of Catholic Education: Achieving and Sustaining Quality Education for Nigerian People.” This year, our focus is on “Catholic Education in Nigeria: Challenges of Child Protection and Human Sexuality.” Having brainstormed and reflected on the theme of our summit, we are glad to come out with the following resolutions:

Education is an integral part of the life of the Church. Thus the provision of qualitative and holistic education for the average Nigerian child irrespective of religious or ethnic differences is the primary goal of Catholic education. This combines intellectual, physical, moral, spiritual and cultural formation that is premised on Christian religious principles and the social teachings of the Church. Therefore Catholic educators are those who share in the mission of the Church-to teach and educate and build the virtue of the children through moral education which, not only builds the person but also, helps to make the society a better place.

It is a reality that the Catholic Church is among the major providers of education in many places in our country. There are many other providers of education. Much as see this as a welcome development, it goes without saying that Catholic education remains unique for the simple reason that we are into it not for something but someone, namely, Jesus Christ, who is the Good news that we proclaim. Also, she remains the principal partner of Government in the area of National development.

While commending the efforts of so many in providing quality education, we note that education in Nigeria today is facing serious challenges. There are many children in Nigeria who have no access to quality education. There are also children, who because of terrorist attacks are not able to go to school; these include children whose schools have been destroyed or kidnapped as in the case of Chibok girls and many others who are still being held against their will by the terrorists. . Many others have lost their lives on the way to school, as result of the activities of these terrorists groups. Many wealthy Nigerians now send their children to Western nations for Education. Our educational institutions are falling behind in both sciences and arts. Private Schools are fast taking the places of public schools. More and more Nigerians are enrolling their children in private schools because their institutions give better education than public schools. In the light of all these most private schools and even mission schools have become too expensive and many middle-class families are not able to pay the tuition fees. Since the managers of private and mission schools do not receive subsidy to run their schools, they have to hire good teachers in order to maintain a high standard of education which informs the high tuition charged in some of these schools.

We reiterate the fact that the provision of basic education of children from primary to secondary school is a fundamental right of every child. We appeal to the government to create an enabling environment by supporting private and mission schools who are also contributing their own quotas in the provision of education to Nigerians.

Given the pedigree of the Catholic Church in education, no responsible government, desirous to provide qualitative and functional education for its citizens can afford to ignore partnership with her. Positive outcomes have followed in Nigeria where partnership between the state and the church has been restored by some wise political leaders. The Anambra State partnership example with the Church is a case in point. Products of this partnership recently did our nation proud in far away America. It is our belief that we cannot with all seriousness talk about things like huge number of out-of-school children especially in the northern part of the country when many non-profit making organizations like the Catholic Church are not being given the needed support and incentives to do more to make education accessible and affordable to more children.

Politicization of the issue of education is not in the interest of Nigeria as a nation. If we must make a head way, basic education should and must be removed from the concurrent list in our constitution. If we agree that basic education is a right of every Nigerian child, the school they attend should not and must not be an issue. Regardless of the school they attend this basic right should be respected. Consequently, governments at all levels must stand up to their constitutional duty to create the enabling environment for service providers in this field to properly provide these services to all eligible children.

For our society to return to the path of moral rectitude there is need to begin with a new soul search. We must, as Catholics begin to search our minds to see if we are teaching our children rightly and in accordance with the mandate of the Church. To achieve this, we must with like-mi minds to ensure the return of mission schools taken over by the government to the Church. If the truth be told, the failure of moral education in Nigeria began with the hijack of missionary schools by the Government. This development, no doubt, has robbed the church of her wings and created nuisance out of our schools. We use this opportunity to appeal to State governments who have not returned the mission schools taken over by the government to do so without further delay.

There is no doubt that we are faced with many challenges of child protection and human sexuality in our efforts to provide good and functional education and the challenges are mounting with time. Today, there are many of our sons and daughters, who have been sexually exploited through trafficking and many others who are suffering domestic abuses in their families. Perhaps the global crisis that the Church is facing because of sexual abuse committed by a few clerics in the past 70 years needs our mention. The actions of these clerics have greatly wounded the Church. The Holy Father Pope Francis and in fact, his predecessors have apologized to the world for the actions of these few clerics who abused children entrusted to them.

We reiterate our commitment to continue to protect children and vulnerable persons entrusted to our care. It is worthy of note that there are many ecclesiastical Jurisdictions and institutions in Nigeria that have well thought out policies, guidelines and procedures on the protection and safeguarding of children and vulnerable adults. Furthermore, the church in our country has clear policy guidelines on human sexuality enshrined in “Catholic Policy on Education in Nigeria.” These guidelines must be enforced.

We must therefore continue to ensure that there is a safe environment for every child and vulnerable adults under our care in our Jurisdictions and institutions.

In order to overcome the challenges posed by child protection and human sexuality in our Catholic Schools, we have resolved:

1. All cases of child abuse must be reported and disciplinary and legal actions have to be taken against those who abuse minors in our schools.

2. Therapy, counseling and spiritual assistance should be given to the victims of sexual abuse. Trained Counselors are to be given more support in our schools.

3. In order to strike a balance between over protection and harmful process in terms of sexual abuse, there is need for proper sex education for students.

4. No compromise of situations and persons that are involved in the process

5. A zero tolerance of situation of sexual abuse and of their perpetrators must be re-emphasized and implemented religiously.

6. There is need for seminars for parents, teachers and students of our schools on the dangers of child abuse.

7. Our school managers and teachers should be familiar with the indicators of processes of abuse such as kissing, letter writing, posting and watching of pornographic materials etc.

8. Our teachers and managers must uphold and maintain Catholic ethos in our schools. These include creating a good environment and working relationship with management, staff and students.

9. High standard of discipline must be maintained in our schools through clear rules and policies

How to ensure that core Catholic values/ethos are inculcated in our schools:

1. Catholic values/identity and character, the things that make catholic schools different from other schools should be impressed in our schools and it ought to be felt among students.

2. Part of ensuring catholic values, is to see that scriptures are included in what we do and taught to the children.

3. Seminars for teachers on Catholic values who must in turn teach it to the students.

4. There is need to have a mission statement and in-depth teaching of this vision to our children

5. Catholic prayer books must be used as guides for our teachers and students

6. Apart from state curriculum catholic schools must come out with catholic moral instruction. There is therefore the need to review our curriculum

7. Lives of the saints should be taught in our schools

8. Priests, School heads and teachers should be able to live a life of example of Humility, Honesty and Integrity

9. Christi-animation should be the spirit of our schools

10. There is also the need to have a Catholic schools week.

On how children in our schools can be protected against the possibility of abuse from adults concerning human sexuality:
1. Our children should be taught what abuse is, how it comes and how to run away from it.

2. Establishing a functional and viable Counseling Unit in our Schools

3. Educating the teachers of the ills and implication of child abuse

4. Parents need to monitor what their children do especially the kind of films they watch.

5. A law in the school should be made to prevent students from going to the staff quarters

6. There should be legal and disciplinary measures to be taken in case of abuse and teachers ought to be aware of such laws

7. Decent outfit must be required at all times for all students.

8. Internet access by students must be controlled and monitored

To sustain high quality education in our schools and retain the trust people have of our schools

1. There is need for re-evaluate our entire school system; taking stock of what we have done and what needs to be improved upon. Such evaluation ought to include: school structure, curriculum and moral standard.

2. Employment of qualified teachers as well as training and retraining of teachers through seminars, workshops and updates.

3. Provision of scholarships for indigent students

4. Need for Chaplains to be in our schools

5. Need to increase advocacy for government support and partnership

6. Need for a blue-print that will stipulate Catholic standards in our schools. Each diocese to establish quality control /assurance unit.

7. In maintaining education policies, the dioceses should carry all stake-holders along.

8. Need to review the qualification of staff in our school. National Policy on education stipulates the qualification of staff. For Primary Schools, the minimum qualification should be National Certificate in Education (NCE). For Secondary Schools, it is -Bachelor Degree in Education (BE.D). School Heads must therefore be professionals.

9. NCE and BE.D teachers should be encouraged to register with the Teachers Registration Council Certificate Council to possess the license to practice.

10. There is need to integrate sex and media education into the curriculum of our schools

How to minimize the impact of negative politics in our Catholic education:
1. We must constantly speak out against negative and discriminatory policies against education in the country

2. As stake-holders, there is need for the church to be involved or be connected to the national bodies that make policies for education in the country.

3. The Education unit of the Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria with high ranking Catholic educationists as members needs to be more proactive and continually serve as a liaison office in the area of policy formulations that will reflect the interest of the Church in national policy for education

How the basic right of a child to education can be upheld by government irrespective of the school the child attends:
1. There should be annual basic provision for budgeting

2. The population of the children in the country must be ascertained for proper budgeting

3. Those responsible for managing the budget should be people of integrity

4. Proper supervision of schools should be done regularly regardless of the type of school

5. Proper population statistics of our schools ought to be made available to government

6. Our Bishops through the help of lawyers can put pressure on the government to do the right thing.

Given the near lack of government interest in Catholic schools, what do we do to call government attention?
1. Catholic Legislators must be involved in presenting the Catholic interest

2. Parents Teachers Association is an avenue to discuss such matters and take appropriate step

3. Advocacy from the central bodies like the CBCN, Bishops in the Provinces and Dioceses is important

4. Catholic members to be encouraged to join politics and be at the Centre of policy making

5. Integrity should be maintained by all Catholic Schools to prevent Cheating during NECO/WAEC exam

6. Embarking on prayer and peaceful protest where necessary

How the church can handle the burning demands of both single and co-educational schools:
1. The Church should continue to operate both education systems since they have their merits and demerits.

2. There should be implementation of a holistic curriculum that develops the three domains of the child.

3. There should be quality facilities and staffing in all Catholic schools

4. There should be inter-school competitions between the single and co-educational institutions

5. Meaningful attention ought to be given to extra-curriculum activities.

Education is the greatest school of liberation and protection of the dignity of the human persons. We must give it our best shots. In the words of Pope Emeritus, Benedict XVI, it remains “integral to the mission of the Church proclaiming the Good news first and foremost. Every Catholic institution is a place to encounter the Living God who in Jesus Christ reveals His transforming love and truth.”(Address to Catholic Educators, University of Washington DC, April 2008).

Most Rev. Peter Odetoyinbo
Episcopal Chairman on Education

Rev. Fr. Bernard Asogo
Secretary, Education Unit, CSN

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