Kamalo, SIERRA LEONE – “Transition creates tension” summarized how Fray Jose Prudencio Castillo, OAR, head of the Augustinian Recollect Mission in Sierra Leone and local prior of the Recoletos de Kamalo community, saw the stakeholders’ initial reactions to the educational climate change introduced by the Recoletos friars in their school apostolate here.
As the new school year opened last September, the Recoletos-run St. Paul School (SPS), under the directorship of Fray Jess Marco Sanchez, OAR, proudly displayed and brought into play its new slogan, “One School, One Family, One Heart.”
Fray Castillo said that the slogan intends to reinforce the understanding of the school as a good place not just for learning but also for the sense of belonging.
Starting SY 2018-19, SPS caters already to all school levels of Basic Education, from pre-primary to senior secondary. And its standard, which has always been “top of the line” as Fray Sanchez proudly described it, is continuously raised not just in terms of its physical plant (such as the recent completion of the Pre-School Building, fence, modern toilet system, water facilities, and the school pavilion) but also including other equally important areas of the school operation.
“Now students from all levels can better feel the familial atmosphere. They gather daily as one family for the recitation of prayers, singing of the national anthem, and listening to the announcements,” Fray Castillo noted. “And this is a first in the history of Sanda Loko (a chiefdom in Bombali District where Kamalo belongs), or maybe of the country,” he added.
“However, the numerous developments that had been implemented caused some negative reactions from the parents, teachers, and students,” Fray Castillo recounted, identifying the two highly criticized innovations implemented by the administration, namely, the construction of a more sanitary flush toilet system and the imposition of “time rules” at the school gate.
“These are the things that they have not encountered nor seen before. They are used to the unsanitary pit latrines, and also to doing their daily chores according to the mood of the sun,” Fray Castillo said.
“But, right after the PTA (Parent Teacher Association) meeting, everybody realized that everything was meant for the integral development of their children.” One parent even commented that these, as quoted by Fray Castillo, “are new things that will prepare our children towards a very challenging globalized world.”
Furthermore, the newly-constructed Pre-School Building was blessed just last October 29, 2018 by Fray Castillo.
“The construction of the school building was made possible through the efforts of the Order of the Augustinian Recollects – Province of St. Ezekiel Moreno, the OFWs (Overseas Filipino Workers) of Sierra Leone, and the local contributors,” he said.
But payment for the so-called “teacher’s incentives” and other related financial needs are met through the consistent contribution of the eponymous St. Paul the Apostle Parish and those of the parents themselves, he also said.
Fray Castillo also pointed out that the pre-school introduced a “heart-set” in their apostolate, an alternative to the cultural “mind-set” of the people that, among others, treats children as the least in the community. The children are the last to eat in a communal gathering, and their daily life normally consists of more work with practically no time for play or leisure. Recoletos Education rides on the current bandwagon of gradually eradicating the dark side of some practices so that the community as a whole can move forward towards a better future.
“And this made the people realize that the future of Sierra Leone lies in the hands of their children,” Fray Castillo said.
His last updates: “It is very heartwarming to see, on a daily basis, parents sending their small, happy kids to class wearing their clean and complete uniform, with their bags, juice bottles, and lunch packs. It is also notable that majority of the pre-schoolers enrolled at SPS are Catholic.”