INT’L LITERACY DAY: Salesian programs provide education for poor and at-risk youth
Salesian missionaries focus on essential educational including literacy, skill building.
NEW ROCHELLE, NY (Sept. 8, 2023) Top of Form Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco, joins humanitarian organizations and countries around the globe in celebrating International Literacy Day. Celebrated each year on Sept. 8, the day was launched in 1967 to “remind the public of the importance of literacy as a matter of dignity and human rights and to advance the literacy agenda towards a more literate and sustainable society.”
This year’s theme focuses on “Promoting literacy for a world in transition: Building the foundation for sustainable and peaceful societies.” UNESCO noted, “Rapidly changing global context took a new meaning over the past years, hampering the literacy progress and widening inequalities across world regions, countries, and populations. In low- and middle-income countries, the share of 10-year-old children who could not read and understand a simple text with comprehension has increased from 57% in 2019 to an estimated 70% in 2022.”
“Salesian missionaries provide vital primary, secondary and vocational schools in some of the most impoverished and remote places on earth. Education is for all children regardless of their religious background,” said Father Timothy Ploch, interim director of Salesian Missions. “Salesian missionaries focus on essential educational skills including literacy as well as skill-building initiatives and English language skills.”
In honor and celebration of International Literacy Day 2023, Salesian Missions is proud to highlight Salesian programs with a focus on educational and literacy efforts for poor youth.
Close to 800 youth at 30 tuition (study) centers in India have been supported thanks to donor funding from Salesian Missions. The centers provide school support for poor and disadvantaged students.
Salesians report that nearly 250 million students were affected due to school closures at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns. The pandemic posed several challenges in public and private schools including the expected rise in dropouts, learning losses, and an increase in the digital divide. Furthermore, nearly 147 million children missed more than half of their in-person schooling two years into the pandemic, with more than 27 million of them having missed at least three-quarters of in-person schooling. This amounts to 2 trillion hours of lost in-person learning globally.
Knowing how much help youth needed, Tiruchy Don Bosco started tuition centers in Alangulam, Keela Eral, Dindigul, Kazhiyappanallur, Yercaud and Varadarajanpet to enable children to access school support. At the centers, students are encouraged to study, improve their reading, writing, and speaking skills, and engage in recreational activities.
Salesian missionaries provide social development and educational services to poor youth and their families in centers in Lahore and Quetta, Pakistan. Salesian schools provide economic benefits, scholarships and accommodations for students from the poorest families so that education is not only accessible but also an incentive for parents to send their children to school.
Pakistan has one of the lowest literacy rates in South Asia at less than 50 percent. Although the country’s constitution acknowledges free and compulsory education for children and youth between the ages of 5-16, the rule is often not followed in rural areas for those over age 13.
Salesians have a particular focus on ensuring that young girls are able to start and continue their education. Unfortunately, many girls abandon their studies before the end of compulsory schooling to take care of their families or because of early marriage. This happens in both villages and large urban centers such as Lahore. Some families believe that early marriage will solve the family’s economic challenges.
To help combat this, Salesians provide training programs focused on educating girls and young women about their rights with the aim of creating and spreading awareness and self-determination. Salesians encourage girls and young women to continue their studies. They also organize courses to impart knowledge and skills aimed at learning a trade. One of the students said, “If we study, we can have a brighter future.”
Six students who attend Don Bosco Technical Institute in Makati City, Philippines, were supported with their education thanks to donor funding from Salesian Missions. Five of the students are in the automotive program while the sixth student is taking the fitter machinist course. The students have completed their coursework and will advance to hands-on training with their graduation in September 2023.
Don Bosco Technical Institute was established in 1971 to provide poor and underprivileged youth with the skills training to find and retain employment. Today, the institute teaches close to 800 students in courses including automotive, machine shop, electrical and electronics, and printing.
The institute has also developed long-term partnerships with organizations that help ensure students are able to access on-the-job training and find employment once they graduate. Partnerships have been developed with Ford and Porsche, among others.
St. Augustine Agricultural Junior Secondary School, located in Lungi, Sierra Leone, received support from donor funding from Salesian Missions. The school, which was established in 1984, has 14 classrooms, a computer lab, an infirmary/clinic and an administrative building.
The school provides education to marginalized students in the region. It currently has 700 students, 34 teachers and four auxiliary staff, including a nurse. Given the economic condition of the country and the challenges faced by students, the school recently reintroduced its feeding program. A portion of the donor funding went to support this program and ensure students in need have access to healthy nutrition through school lunch.
In addition, funding provided for school uniforms and to support salaries for the auxiliary staff. Maintenance and repairs of the school buildings, assembly and sport grounds, school fence, bathrooms and canteen also took place with the funding. At the school, Salesian sports programming provides much-needed recreation and life skills for the students. Funding provided for table tennis equipment, balls, and jerseys for soccer, basketball and volleyball.
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