Policy is a principle. To speak of Marist Education Policy is to speak of our principle of education, as Marist brothers. It is to speak of what guides us in our educational activity.
Our policy or principle of education is alive, active and life giving. Yes, our policy was initiated and given to us by Saint Marcellin Champagant, the lover of young people and our first Marist Brothers Jean Marie Granjoa and Jean-Baptist Audras.
Champagnat says to his early brothers and to you and me “to bring up children properly, we must love them, and love them equally.” This is our vision of education - our principle of education. It is from this that flows the particular characteristics of our style of education: namely presence, simplicity, family spirit and love of work. All these form what we call “Marist style of education.” That is the secret of our success. Let us take the characteristics one after the other.
Presence here means being where the children are. It is second nature of Marist educator to be with his students all the time. A Marist Brother educates his students by making himself available to them. His presence is a sign that he cares for them personally. Personal contact is essential in our style of education.
We establish inter personal relationship with our students. This relationship is based on love and mutual respect. This is what actually creates a conducive climate for teaching and learning in our schools.
Our presence is not an intimidating one. It is a presence that reassures and encourages the young in their effort to discover their strengths and weakness. By being present to our students, we know them and make ourselves known to them. We get involved in their lives and daily activities and equally allow them to enter into our lives. We play with them, work with them, chat with them. Listen to this short story.
A brother was sent to teach in a certain school. On his arrival, he discovered that there was no accommodation for him in the school. He has to live some 5kms away from the school. The brother would then say from time to time “no I must live with my students. Until I live with my students my mission is incomplete.” The brother is right. Ours is not a matter of hit and run. We must be there because in the words of our founder Saint Marcellin. “Education does not consist of either discipline or teaching; it is not imported by courses in politeness or even in religion, but by constant daily contact between
students and their teachers, by personal advice, attention to details, encouragements, corrections, and the other sorts of lessons to which this interrupted contact gives rise”.
Marist education presence is an exemplary one. Saint Champagant, insists that his disciples must educate through example, and he says “…of all the lessons you can, and indeed must give your pupils/students, the first and principal one, the most meritorious for you and the most efficacious for them, is your example. Education is assimilated more easily and makes a deeper impression by way of the eyes than by way of the ears” So when you see a brother in the midst of students, be it in the classroom, in the dormitory, or play ground, he is not there to pick out those to be punished. He is there because he should be there. That is a distinctive Marist Style of Education.
We have to be where our students are, in a gentle and simple manner. Our simplicity is expressed in the way we approach young ones entrusted to us. We interact with them in a genuine and straightforward manner. We don’t try to be ambiguous and complicated. A Marist educator says what he believes and shows that he believes what he says through his actions. He tries to be honest to himself, to his students and to God whom he is serving in the youth.
Our simplicity is shown in our mode of dressing, feeding habit, lesson preparations and delivery, etc. in all things, we avoid ostentation. Our ways of educating, using the words of one of our documents “like Marcellin is personal, rooted in real life, and practical.” In our honesty, we are aware of our strengths and weaknesses. However, we trust in the power of God who can turn our weaknesses to strength. This helps us understand and journey with
our students , who like other human beings are both strong and weak.
We teach our students to lead a life of simplicity. Our students show their simplicity by being honest and straightforward. Through our daily interaction with them, they discover their real selves and accept themselves as they are, but at the same time striving to improve themselves.
It is this simplicity and honesty that guides our students in their choice of subjects for WAEC/NECO and university courses. They try to be honest to themselves by choosing subjects and courses according to their abilities rather than according to what others think they could do. Surely many failures in WAEC/NECO exams and even change of courses in the universities are as a result of inability of some students to be honest to themselves.
When we have schooled our students in simplicity and honesty, they then make career choices based on their ability and psychological orientation. To simplicity of life, we add family spirit.
“…The spirit of brothers’ schools ought to be a family spirit, now in a good family, a well run family, sentiments of respect, love and mutual trust predominate and not fear of punishment.
What our Founder St Marcellin left for us Marist educators is a legacy that leads us to relate with one another and with our students as members of a loving family. As Marist brothers, we share everything in common as a loving family would do. No one in our circle claims the ownership of anything. We live together, pray together, eat together and share laughter and jokes together. Even our pains and sufferings are all shared. We trust and respect one another.
We accept each brother as a special gift and blessing from God.
In school situation, we become brothers to our students. We don’t even try to be uncles, teachers or big men to them, lest those titles push them to fear us. We make our school a warm and welcoming place to everyone. This is the spirit we try to impart to our students. A spirit that does not divide people into categories or camps, into juniors and seniors. It is a family spirit that understands that respect is reciprocal and not one sided. We help our students to
avoid the use of nicknames and such words as “school father”, “school mother”, “and senior this and that” these are expressions that destroy family spirit. Marist students are to see themselves as schoolmates, respecting mutually one another’s worth and dignity. In this way, we create in our schools an environment that allows each person to blossom.
LOVE OF WORK
Our family spirit gives impetus to hard work. “…This family spirit finds expression and gives strength in a special way in love of work, which has always been one of our characteristic features”. We don’t pluck success, we work hard for it, brothers, staff and students, and we work hard and of course pray. Prayer and hard-work go together. They complement each other, we train our students to work hard and pray well.
The work we speak of here includes studies, compound cleaning, sweeping, washing one’s clothes, plates and school dishes. This reminds me of a funny incident:
Sometime ago, someone approached the principal in one of our schools. She told brother principal through an agent of course that she has a washing machine, she then asked the school to buy the washing machine and use it for washing student’s clothes, and the principal laughed and said “Do you know that training our students to wash their clothes themselves is an important aspect of Marist style of education?” Yes, every little thing contributes to the distinctive style of Marist Education.
Our Founder would always tell the brothers to love work and avoid idleness. “Work” he used to say “is necessary to ensure health of mind and purity of soul; it serves to promote our physical and moral improvement and is even essential to our happiness…” Our love of work is expressed in our lesson preparation and delivery, giving of assignments and correcting them, organizing extra lessons for weaker students, etc.
In this way, we encourage our students in their efforts to work hard.
To conclude, we say that Marist education policy is St. Marcellin’s gift to the church and to youths in particular. In fact, it is St. Marcellin himself who is incarnated in the Marist Brothers of yesterday and today. Our policy is self giving. It is sharing with the youth, the gift of God in us.
We will also wish that many young men join us as Marist Brothers so as to reach out to many more youths who thirst for our style of education.