Pope Francis meets with promoters of the African Compact on Education, and praises the initiative for its goal to educate young people by drawing on Christian values and traditional African culture.
By Deborah Castellano Lubov
“We look to Africa with great confidence,” said Pope Francis on Thursday praising the African Compact on Education, as he addressed a delegation of organizers of the African Compact on Educaiton from the International Religions and Societies Foundation.
“I am happy to welcome you today together with the important novelty you bring with you, that of the African Compact on Education,” the Pope said.
The Compact, he recalled, is the fruit of the International Symposium held in November 2023 in Kinshasa, under the patronage of the Congo Bishops’ Conference and organised by the International Religions and Society Foundation and the Catholic University of Congo.
Numerous bishops, priests, scientists and scholars from various African countries and beyond attended that event, inspired by the Pope’s Global Compact on Education, which he launched in September 2019.
“I congratulate you, because you were the first to realise a continental Educational Compact. You have shown that you have well understood what I was aiming for with this initiative, namely that the Global Education Compact should become a local reality.”
From the start, the Pope said, he conceived this project under the banner of an African proverb, to “emphasise that community dimension of education that has always been part of your millenary educational tradition: ‘To educate a child, it takes a whole village.'”
This is, he explained, “an educational alliance ideally signed by all the members of the village, for whom the task of accompanying each child is not the exclusive responsibility of the father and mother, but of all the members of the community.”
“Everyone, therefore, has a duty to support education, which is always a joint endeavor.”
Duty to support education
“In education we have to take more risks and act as a choir,” the Pope said.
The African Education Compact, he underscored, should contribute not only to recovering and strengthening a “communitarian and horizontal dimension of relationships,” but also to highlight “the vertical dimension,” namely “the relationship with God.”
The African continent, the Pope reflected, has opened up to the Christian proclamation with great enthusiasm and is currently the continent that sees the greatest increase in the number of Christians and Catholics.
“Therefore,” Pope Francis commended, “the African Compact on Education is founded, with justifiable pride, on the motto: ‘I am because we are.’ Faith is present there.”
Investing in young people, teachers
The Pope urged them to continue investing energy into the education of young people.
“After the policies of mass education, which characterised the first decades of post-colonialism,” he recognized, “it is now time to work together with local governments for the ever-increasing qualification of education, especially by training teachers well, valuing them and creating the necessary conditions for the dignified exercise of their profession.”
“We look to Africa with great confidence, because it has everything it needs to be a continent capable of charting future paths.”
“I am referring,” the Holy Father clarified, “not only to the great mineral resources and economic progress and peace processes. I am thinking above all of educational resources: the values of traditional African education, especially those of hospitality, welcome, solidarity, are values that fit perfectly into the Educational Compact.
Christianity, he added, “matches the best part of every culture and helps to purify what is not authentically human, and therefore not even divine.”
Model for other continents
“Dear brothers and sisters, with the African Education Compact,” he observed, “you confirm once again what Pliny the Elder used to say: ‘Ex Africa semper aliquid novi‘ (‘Something new always arises from Africa’).”
Thanking them for their commitment, the Pope expressed, “I hope that the African Compact on Education will be followed by other continents.”
Pope Francis concluded by praying that the Virgin Mary, Mother of Africa, accompany those promoting the Compact.
Pope Francis receives promoters of African Educational Pact