Africa's Clergy and Schools: A Tale of Sacrifice, Risk, and, Uncertainty
by: H. David Sauls
Education across Africa is highly valued by a population of impoverished and oftentimes, oppressed people. In Africa, and especially in Kenya, education is an appetite, a craving, on equal ground with food. Every lesson learned is as good as a missed meal replaced.
The Kenyan education system is very well structured and comports with the incorporation of Christian teachings. Human Evolution is taught in Form 1 (9th grade) in the Kenyan system. Yet it remains a flexible model that allows Church Tradition and scripture to be taught. As we watch the decline of Western education models, particularly the legal and mandated exclusion of teaching Creationism, and limiting students to one view only, that of Evolution, places where new Orthodox Christians schools will soon begin being built under the emerging and developing Exarchate will create an even strong Christian basis for educating Africans from Alexandria to Johannesburg.
In the interim, many of the smaller, government-certified schools like the Ngando Orthodox Christian School and Community Learning Center, run by Father Antipas Odhiambo, desperately struggle to meet their monthly costs. For Ngando, the teaching staff has made the greatest sacrifice, continuing to work without their salaries for almost three months now. The Kenyan economy was only in the first days of economic recovery from COVID when world events sent global economies into chaos and quickly increased inflation rates, stifling the recovery of the economies in African states, and, now, threatening a food crisis. Smaller schools in slum areas are the most vulnerable. The parents of the students aren't with certainty able to pay the meager $10.00 a month tuition fee, so the failing budget will continue to progress until things change. Most have only their noses above water in Africa.
Development of new Exarchate Schools, and receiving existing schools will likely take quite a long time. In the interim, the ten teachers, cook, and nightwatchman of Ngando Orthodox School remain loyal to their beloved students, in spite of the risk and sacrifices to and of themselves. This has been the case across the Alexandrian Patriarchate for years, with priests not being paid stipends regularly, and when the stipends did come, meager amounts were paid that failed to fulfill their needs and their portion of them to their own parish and ministerial work.
Being informed about the developments in Orthodoxy, particularly in Third World countries, and particularly, too, among our most impoverished and challenged clergy is important for the health and unity of our faith, which, in too many places is divided, attacked, and ultimately weakened overall. Africa is no different; in fact, in terms of what canonical Orthodoxy is facing everywhere else, the inherent economic vulnerability of canonical priests and schools in Africa for even harsher conditions, and on a larger scale, is a daunting possibility, with many more millions of people involved.
The poorest of our clergy need not be overlooked as we have our broken hearts looking toward places like Kyiv and our common font. Consider helping a priest in Africa meet his budget, and reward the tireless teachers and staff that remain loyal despite the circumstances, and... the uncertain possibilities.
To contribute to Father Antipas' school and ministry, click on the link below: