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Sustainability in a new Jesuit school in Malawi

14 June 2012

Fifth grade students from Our St. Joseph Jesuit Parish Primary School in Kasungu, Malawi visit the site of the future Loyola Jesuit Secondary School. Photo Credit: LJSS

Peter Henriot, SJ

Sustainability – in both its material and ethical dimensions – is especially concerned with the future.  And who should be more concerned about the future than the youth – the young women and men of today who are the hope of the future?  That is why education, in whatever form it takes today, should have special focus on issues of sustainability.

That is the guiding principle that lies behind the Zambia-Malawi Jesuit Province’s commitment to make its new school in Malawi a “green institution” in so many different ways.  When Loyola Jesuit Secondary School (LJSS) opens in another year or so, we hope it will be noted for a serious commitment to ecological sustainability in construction, maintenance and curriculum.

When we were deciding to build this new school in Malawi, there was much debate about its location, enrolment and orientation.  To be honest, many presumed our new Jesuit school would be somewhat traditional, that is, an all-boys private school in the capital of Lilongwe.  But much discussion, debate and discernment came up with something quite different!  Indeed, LJSS is really an “option for the poor,” an effort of us Jesuits to give hope to young women and men caught in a very poor educational system in one of the poorest countries in the world.

Our school will be located in a poor rural area 120 km from the capital.  It will be co-educational (aiming for gender equity) and all-boarding for 500 students, Form One through Four (grades 9 to 12).  It will be a “grant-aided” school where the Government of Malawi pays salaries of teachers, meaning that tuition fees will be much lower and more available for families of lesser means.

The concern for ecological sustainability in LJSS will be demonstrated in a variety of ways.  (We are surely helped by articles that have regularly appeared in the ECOJESUIT newsletter.)  Some areas of attention will include:

1.      Location – the site has good natural drainage and the buildings will be situated so that sun and wind are taken into account for optimal learning environment.

2.      Basic construction – soil-based bricks will be used, not kiln-fired bricks which destroy scarce trees.

3.      Natural vegetation – trees will be planted around the campus and cared for by students.

4.      Water – recycling and optimal waste disposal techniques will be employed.

5.      Solar – water heating and electrical storage will be promoted.

6. Carbon footprints – these will be regularly monitored.

7.      Curriculum – ecological concerns and ethics will be integrated into courses.

8.      Service programmes – students and staff will attend to local ecological concerns in the required service agenda in local communities.

In endorsing our commitment to build LJSS, Father General Adolfo Nicolas stated, “One of the best ways to serve the present is to give hope for the future and Loyola Jesuit Secondary School will serve the needs of the present youth who are surely the future hope of Malawi.”

We believe that promoting sustainability is central to that present commitment and future hope!

Peter Henriot, SJ. Photo Credit: scarboromissions.ca

The author is Director of Development at Loyola Jesuit Secondary School in Lilongwe, Malawi). For further information, please visit their website.

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