E D U C A T I O N F O R L I F E
NATIONAL DIOCESAN COORDINATORS CONFERENCE
04th – 08th August 2008 : St Philomena’s Durban
Following on from the Education For Life report presented to the Bishops’ Plenary in Mariannhill on the 23rd January, whereby we discussed the idea of offering Education For Life as a tool to the parishes at local level with our focus on the pre-teen (10 – 14year olds). The National EFL team along with the diocesan coordinators meet at St Philomena’s in Durban from the evening of the 04th August until the morning of the 08th August to explore the practical implications of this project
The following dioceses were represented :
Bloemfontein, Cape Town, Dundee, Durban, Francistown, Gaborone, Ingwavuma, Johannesburg, Keimoes-Upingon, Kimberley, Klerksdorp, Kokstad, Kroonstad, Mariannhill, Mthatha, Pretoria, Queenstown, Rustenburg. Tzaneen, Umzimkulu and Witbank.
Apologies : De Aar Port Elizabeth, Manzini, Pietersburg.
Absent : Aliwal North, Eshowe and Oudsthoorn.
The aim of our week was to reflect upon :
1. Leadership necessary for service by Fr Lungelo Mhlongo
2. The Pastoral Cycle and Education For Life methodology by Fr Mokesh Morar
3. Engage in discussion around input with reference to the emotional, physical, psychological, spiritual and intellectual development stage of the pre-teen by Mrs Marie Therese Naidoo.
4. To continue to reflect together on our role as EFL coordinators (the bigger picture)
· How do we mitigate (alleviate) the spread of HIV/AIDS?
· How do we challenge elements that rob people of their inherent freedom and integrity. (What do we do when we meet them in youth e.g. abuse, disrespect, etc)
· How do we address aspects of social injustice against human dignity, (what are these aspects?)
· How do we assist young people to recognize their own humanity and the humanity of others? (Ubuntu)
· How does EFL address human right issues……
5. National Team report
· Cluster visitations
The week began with a half day retreat consisting of prayer and input with reflection given by Fr Lungelo Mhlongo of the Mariannhill diocese. Fr Lungelo gave input on the topic ‘Leadership necessary for service - servant leaders and volunteerism’. The aim of this exercise was to align the leadership style of the Education for Life coordinators with Jesus the servant leader. We were led to reflect on the role of a servant leader; the characteristics of a servant leader and Jesus Christ a model of a servant leader. We had time to reflect on the type of leaders we are as servants called to minister among our youth and children. The morning concluded with the celebration of the Eucharist.
In the afternoon Fr Mokesh Morar form the Bethlehem diocese introduced the concept of the Pastoral Cycle. In discussing issues of universal, national, local and personal concern participants were able to make a link between the methodology used in the Pastoral Cycle and that used in Education for Life. At the centre of each is the process of See – Judge – Act. This exercise was fruitful in that it challenged participants to keep abreast of the cosmic picture of life as in contrast to EFL that focuses on the unique and personal story of participants.
In the evening we were graced with the presence of Cardinal Napier. He shared his personal experience of the World Youth Day. By all accounts shared it proved to be a deep enriching encounter with Pope Benedict 16th as he spoke to the youth of the world. We were fortunate that a number of our EFL coordinators were also present in Australia. Cardinal Napier encouraged EFL to challenge our youth to take control of their lives. Not to offer compromises and the easy way out but to make radical and well informed decisions about relationships. We are to encourage our youth to stand up for what they believe in, what they believe God is asking of them, to change behaviour and to dedicate themselves to believe in themselves.
The participants were eager to know how does our Catholic Church leadership see the role of EFL among our pre-teens? We are concerned that not enough is being done for them and we would be hoping to hear whether we are relevant at this time. Whether our programme will make an impact on their young lives remains a question for us? Hence the purpose of our efforts for the next few years is to offer EFL as a tool for growth and conversion in the parishes for the 10 – 14 year olds. We hope to work with our leadership in the dioceses and parishes.
The participants also voiced an eagerness to have more voice in putting forward their opinions and beliefs around abstinence, fidelity in relationships, and issues of concern, abortions, drugs, HIV/AIDS, teen suicides, to mention a few. The question was voiced as to whether the Department of Social Communication and the Government were working closely together? Of course concerns around finances and Catholic radio/television broadcasting is often presented as a barrier. Cardinal Napier suggested that the group get in touch with some of the program producers that conduct youth programmes and ask to have their say!
The whole of Wednesday morning was spent looking at the Holistic Development of the pre-teen (10 – 14 year old). Since this is our target group for the next couple of years it is important to provide coordinators with knowledge and skills. Of course much more input, shared experience and discussion will be necessary to properly equip our leaders. Hopefully in the course of the next year further training will be provided. Mrs Marie Therese Naidoo from the Durban Archdiocese shared from her personal experience as a mother of a six year old boy and from her informed knowledge as a social worker about the development of the pre-teen. Some important points that come up were :
· The need to care for the pre-teen boy. These little ones are often neglected and as a result we have serious social behavioural problems at later development.
· Absent fathers – the need to have positive male-role models
· Addressing issues with our pre-teens as issues arise
· Need to teach children to think positively about themselves and their bodies.
· The need to be honest and open with our children around the area of human sexuality.
· The need for a spirituality of the boy child.
The Sexual Development of pre-teen
Age 6 – 9
· Compare private parts
· Peer conversations around sex/AIDS
· Homophobic outlook
Ages 10 – 12
· Sexual development is physical
· Admiration same sex adults
· Distress of physical development (too advanced, crushes)
· Body image is important
· Peer option is values
· Value adult opinion
Ages 10 – 14
Boys tick when there is action, physical, visual. Boys want to know what is sex all about. They learn from their peers. Boys see girls as things. Boys use power, competition, they operate from the ‘I must win’ perspective of life.
· Listening to children
· Honest responses
· Help them understand what they see/hear = meaning focus on what has value e.g. right/wrong
· They value adult opinion in the sea of stimuli and views
· Guidelines for behaviour
The outcomes of this input helped us to look at the following needs to do!
1. Empower parents in working with children
2. Integration of cultural values and practices = synergistic with universal values and faith
3. Empowering boys =physic of boys, cultural contradiction, gender education, understanding how boys learn
4. Skills in grasping the moment and child friendly talk
5. Sex ‘feeling’ as a source of energy
6. Control of feelings.
It was very interesting to explore together as facilitators the things that interest boys/girls at this pre-teen stage of growth.
It also remains a major challenge to journey with our children in the parishes as they embrace their pre-teens with hope, joy, innocents, security and the with the right to just be children without having to bear the responsibilities of adulthood! It is far from ideal and easy but the Education for Life diocesan coordinators are prepared to keep guiding and offering our children the best they can. We also are prepared to help inculcate in their lives values, self-respect, self-confidence and self-esteem.
In the later afternoon Fr Joseph Kizito gave input entitled, Relationships with a view to commitment. We are happy to witness to the growth of young EFL couples who are committing themselves in marriage. Fr Kizito encouraged the coordinators to address issues of relationships among our leaders and youth members. It was also an opportunity to reflect on ourselves again as diocesan coordinators (religious, priests and laity) as to how do we relate to one another as professional leaders who witness to abstinence and fidelity in our vowed life, married and single lifestyles. The grounds were laid for discussion and the outcomes that were expressed showed gratitude for the openness to be able to talk about relationships among ourselves. We were encouraged to share the feelings, emotions and concerns we have as leaders working within close proximity with one another of different genders. The fruits of good, healthy friendships are encouraged keeping in mind that our youth learn as much from our behaviour as from what we say!
Bishop Z.P. Mvemve came to celebrate the Eucharist and gave a strong word of encouragement to the participants. Bishop cautioned the group to be ever watchful of outside influences that can pull them away from their beliefs and convictions regarding abstinence. He suggested we get a common symbol to show our solidarity throughout the SACBC region and one that would give a message to other youth. Bishop Mvemve expressed his gratitude for the work carried out by EFL and reassured us of his support and guidance.
Thursday was spent on diocesan reports. A panel presentation was used to share the following questions :
1. What are the issues facing our children today?
2. What are the root causes of these issues?
3. In bringing EFL to the pre-teens what are the challenges you face?
4. What are some of your success?
5. What have been your network systems in the parishes?
Issues facing our children today are many. HIV/AIDS, sickness at home, parentless families, abuse from family members, poverty, lack of good male role models, exposure to sexual influences from the media, cell-phones, magazines, the sexualisation of children at an early age, lack of proper socialization, negative peer pressure, prostitution, human trafficking, lack of sound education, suicide, rape, lost of identity, substance abuse (glue, petrol, spirits, etc), poverty, unemployment, victims of alcoholism, family breakdown, single parenting, violence in the home, death.
Root causes of these issues: poverty, unemployment, no skills, no love at home, decline of family life, moral crisis in adults (no God, no values, no conscience), parentless homes, child headed families, breakdown in cultural values and support systems, breakdown in social values, negative peer pressure, poor education, divorce, lack of parental communication, parents compromising to keep children quiet by giving them everything they want, families not making efforts to recreate together, e.g. a father taking his son fishing.
In bringing EFL to the pre-teens what are the challenges you face? Handling children’s stories when they share their emotional feelings about their families, wounds, hurts, lack of social workers to understand the plight of the children, inadequacies of skills by facilitators to handling this stage, fear of not being able to help the children, issues to big to handle during workshops, lack of parental involvement, lack of parish involvement, time available for follow-up, financial support,
What are some of your success? Being able to work with the priests in the local parishes, communication with parents, doctors, teachers and other stakeholders who help with the workshops, ability to organise an ongoing counselling services for the children, to prevent children who threaten suicide, assisting rape victims and offering support, parents giving feedback about the positive change in their children, being able to assist in children receiving birth certificates and foster grants, installation of new facilitators, being challenged to make the programme dynamic and actually getting parents involved.
What have been your network systems in the parishes? Being able to bring on board relevant qualified personnel to assist when the children are really traumatised and need help beyond my capacities. Most facilitators had not yet set in place a networking system. An enclosed data base page has been designed so that we can make a national EFL network booklet to have contacts available when professional help is needed keeping in mind EFL coordinators are not equipped adequately for the mammoth task on hand.
The panel did a great job in presenting their feedback and we are proud to witness to growth and commitment among themselves. From a number of experiences shared it was evident that facilitators have had many challenges that they have dealt with very professionally. Thank you.
The National Team report:
Sr Bernadette, EFL National Coordinator, reported that she had visited all the cluster regions, except Swaziland, and was happy to witness to much work being done. ‘It gives us (the national team) much joy to see you taking the values of Education For Life to heart and with great eagerness passing on your convictions about change and the positive promotion of life to our youth and children’.
The purpose of the Cluster visitations were to :
· personally meet with and give encouragement to the facilitators
· plan workshops for the 10 – 14 year olds on parish level
a) working within existing structures in parishes
b) induction of parents into the EFL process
c) parish ownership of the programme (finances)
· The placement of Education for Life within the SACBC structure
· To look at our relationship with the diocesan youth chaplains
· Ongoing EFL training in 2008 (cluster EFL trainings & St Philomena’s)
· Youth Alive
(Ref minutes of cluster visitations send out to respective dioceses after each visitation took place).
EFL was then presented within the bigger picture and we revisited our five year plan within the SACBC region:
• EFL existed sporadically since 1990’s
• August 2002 – presented to SACBC
• January 2003 – SACBC approved and EFL was placed under the national youth desk.
• August 2003 – re-indorsed
5 year plan set in place (cluster, diocesan & parish)
• It was our objective that given a five year time span the Education For Life would have permeated all cluster regions, dioceses (trained leaders and set in place diocesan teams) and have filtered down to parish level.
• Touched the lives of a wide range of young people (16 – 25) that would provide a pool of skilled and committed EFL facilitators.
• Parish level to address the needs of our pre-teenager (10 – 14)
To do this we envisaged EFL merging within existing parish structures, e.g. working with priests, parish pastoral councils, parent bodies, relevant community stakeholders.
The national team evaluated their aims and purposes for the past five years and they are happy with the progress made. They are aware that dioceses and parishes are operating at various stages of pastoral development but that most are willing and committed to support the progress. They also shared their successes and challenges as follows:
National Office Successes :
• We have met and in part are still meeting our objectives for the 5 year plan
• Implementation of EFL in the dioceses
• Trained EFL facilitators and teams (religious, priests, married couples and youth)
• Youth Alive Launch 27th April 2007 (Follow up programmes and training to EFL)
• Publications – manuals, Youth Alive manuals, brochures, posters, monthly newsletter, news articles, banners……
• Our affiliation to the International Youth Alive Movement (IAYA organization)
• Opened a national EFL office within the SACBC supported by the bishops
• Built up a resource library
• Ability to elicit funding to support the national office, to conduct national and cluster trainings of trainers, assist diocesan workshops, publish materials.
• Networked with other liked minded organisations on a national, inter-African and international scale
• Witnessed to behaviour change in ourselves and our youth
• Deepened our prayer life
• Developed communication, facilitation, written and reading skills,
• Promoted accountability and responsibility among our youth
National Office Challenges :
· Upholding our vision – keeping the bigger picture before us and striving to reach our objectives as creatively and as meaningfully as possible.
· Leadership – loosing diocesan coordinators without any replacements and /or prior notification for their replacement
· Placement of EFL – where do we belong…. As a point of clarity Education for Life is one of a number of Youth Organisations and falls under the Youth Ministry Office and so be looked after by Bishop Mvemve and, to quote the Statutes, “be accountable to the Secretary General and report to the Bishops Conference through him” (Statutes No.25).
· Replacement of the national leadership – the ongoing need to groom leaders to replace existing leaders
· Misconception that if youth have once undergone the EFL process then parishes should be free of teenage pregnancies, alcoholism among youth, HIV/AIDS, sexual abuse, all social mis-behaviours, etc. (unfortunately, EFL is only a tool to promote change not a permanent erasing agent!)
· Office blamed for failure of implementation in dioceses
· Lack of feedback from coordinators about progress of EFL in the dioceses –led to difficulty in eliciting and securing funding for future programs
· Constant anxiety about financial support – not every one wants to support abstinence programs
· To sustain interest and meaning in EFL among its leaders and participants
The national team encouraged the participants to keep striving to bring the message of the Gospel and to promote sound social, moral and Christian values among the youth in their areas.
Other business :
SACBC Youth Alive pilgrimage. It was suggested that a Youth Alive gathering take place within a two year span to consolidate the message of EFL and to keep the spirit of solidarity alive. It will be further discussed and suggested to the SACBC plenary in January 2009.
In relation to bishop Mvemve’s suggestion regarding a common symbol which was an item on the agenda as it had been suggested during a number of the cluster visitations the team gave the idea to the coordinators that we could do so and engage the youth in a competition. The prize would go to the winning diocese.
The symbol is to reflect our objectives of promoting well informed choices, Christian, sound cultural and social values, it is to express hope, behaviour change, abstinence and needs to be relevant to all three countries within the SACBC region. Dioceses are to forward their contribution on or before 01 December 2008 to :
Education For Life National Office
P.O. Box 941
The competition will be judged by a panel of people and the most relevant will receive a reward in the name of the local diocese. Obviously late submissions will not qualify. The winning symbol will be printed on a variety of items and sold to EFL members.
a) That further specialised training be conducted to equip coordinators with skills and tools to accompany our pre-teens on their life journeys
b) That focus and concentration be given to filtering EFL to parish levels with special reference to the working structures given as guidelines at the bishop’s January plenary 2008 - Ref. letter of 05/02/08
c) That the National team visit each diocese to engage in dialogue around the implementation of EFL with coordinators, teams and parish stakeholders
The week ended with the celebration of the Eucharist.
Report by :
Sr Bernadette Duffy
SACBC – EFL coordinator
19 August 2008