Are there Christian children in Christian schools?
By Nithiya Sagayam
This is in response to the news that in Uttar Pradesh some Hindu groups have ordered not to celebrate Christmas in Christian schools.
At the outset let me share the anxiety of school principals, heads of schools, provincials of various Catholic religious orders, and other duty bearers in this time of unwanted threats and problems in India.
Most of our Christian schools are committed to discipline, orderliness, and standard with principles and deep values in life. All these are truly praiseworthy. But are these wonderful gifts and graces available to most of our Christians who live in rural areas and slums?
Let’s not forget that more than 70 percent Christians are living in villages. But in the past 25 years, almost 80 percent of all the newly constructed schools are all focused on towns and cities. Most principals and headmasters (priests and nuns) of these posh English medium schools once studied in local medium in their villages. Most priests and nuns of this country are all from rural villages.
Maybe they may have forgetten their own roots. Many priests and nuns face the great temptation to work or stay only in towns and cities. The family visits and visiting the sick and the people in the village huts have become something of the past – mostly found in foreign missionaries.
Most of our city and town educational institutions are matriculation schools or the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) or Council for the Indian School Certificate Examinations (ICSE) schools. They are run by religious congregations which pronounce in their charism that they are called to serve the poor and the deprived. They profess that they have a special option for the poor. But when it comes to running schools, it is just business. Some priests and nuns seem to use any means to get some post in such schools.
Just a few years back, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI) had come out with Educational Policy of the Church in India. Unfortunately, there is no monitoring body either in dioceses or in religious congregations to check if these schools follow the stipulations given in that policy document.
It is time the owners (often Catholic dioceses or Religious Congregations) of the Christian schools had a conscious reflection about their mission (their original purpose for running schools), as most of these schools today cater to the rich children who are not Christians. Some parents of these children are also hardcore Hindu fundamentalists. As a result they show their color – be it parents or outsiders – by such diktats that no Christmas in Christian schools. Gradually they will also say that Christian schools should have no chapel or they should have prayers by the priests and nuns in the school campus. Where are we heading to now?
Most of our English medium schools have denied admission to several Catholic children citing their poverty. It is the time the bishops and provincials of these groups went in for a critical evaluation of these schools and their beneficiaries. What is the percentage of the Christians in the Christian schools?
What is the percentage of local Christian teachers in these schools or they imports from other states? What is the percentage of Below Poverty Line (BPL) Christian children studying in these schools? How are these poor Christian children given special attention with regard to their fees? How do do these schools ensure the Christian children’s faith formation and foster contacts with their parents?
We are at a crucial time. Danger signals are coming one by one. When will we ever learn? Probably the CBCI and Conference of Religious India (CRI) need to take up this growing threat seriously and respond.
The true Christianity in India lives in villages. It is time we focused on these roots again with full vigor.