October 16, 2015 — Loyola Jesuit Secondary School (LJSS) in Kasungu, Malawi, opened this fall with its first class of 144 ninth-grade students, in a country where many youth don’t have access to a secondary education.
“Right now, less than 35 percent of all Malawi children attend secondary school — and less than 25 percent of young women do,” said development director Jesuit Father Peter Henriot. “The school will prepare students to become men and women with a love for others. They’ll learn how to make a difference.”
According to Fr. Henriot, its location was chosen because Kasungu, a poor, rural area about 75 miles outside Malawi’s capital of Lilongwe, has a critical shortage of good schools. The majority of schools that do exist — especially in poor districts like Kasungu — lack qualified teachers, books, electricity and equipment.
To help LJSS charge lower fees than private schools, the school is run in cooperation with the government of Malawi, which will pay teachers’ salaries and provide other resources. Twenty-five percent of LJSS’ boarding school spaces have been specially allotted for local children from Kasungu. Additionally, the school is co-educational and aims to enroll an even ratio of girls to boys.
“You don’t have development unless you are educating the youth. Education is key, and education in a poor rural area is important. And you don’t have justice unless you are educating the girls,” Fr. Henriot said.
The school’s mission statement describes its future graduates as persons for others: “graduates of conscience, competence and compassion who are aware of their responsibility to transform Malawian society under the guidance of the Christian values of a faith that promotes justice.”
As a demonstration of these Jesuit values, LJSS will require both students and staff to perform community service, including tutoring students in primary schools, providing teacher enrichment programs and assisting with local ecological initiatives.
“One of the best ways to serve the present is to give hope for the future,” said Father Adolfo Nicolás, SJ, Superior General of the Society of Jesus. “Loyola Jesuit Secondary School will effectively serve the needs of the present youth who are the future hope of Malawi.”
Fr. Henriot thanked the many donors who helped make the dream of the school a reality; the Jesuits in Britain supported the construction of the school through a grant from the proceeds of the sale of St. Cuthbert’s Gospel to the British Museum in 2012, and many individual donors gave generously to the school.
“My Jesuit companions of LJSS join me with prayers of appreciation for your consistent help,” said Fr. Henriot. “Please keep us and all our teachers, staff and students in your thoughts and prayers!”