While all children of school age commenced their new scholastic year in Malta this week with a good mix of enthusiasm, reluctance, trepidation and excitement, the classes at St Aloysius’ College Primary started with the extraordinary presence of a solitary red chair, sitting empty on the classroom floor. What is it all about?
In Malta our system has ensured that education, from primary right up to University level, is offered free of charge (although some may opt for private schools) to every child, teen and adult from every walk of life, albeit with different rates of success. Nonetheless it is something we take for granted. Not so in many countries of the world. Not so for over 57 million children who do not have access to primary education, let alone the countless millions who do not receive education beyond the first basic years. Enter the red chair.
St Aloysius’ College Primary is participating in an ongoing international campaign, the Global Red Chair Project, that aims to create awareness among students in Jesuit schools, colleges and other institutions, and campaigns for the right to education for all children. The red school chair, the chosen symbol of the project, sits unoccupied, waiting for a child, a constant reminder of the millions of little girls and boys who would love to learn, who have the right to learn, and who would be pulled out of situations of poverty and injustice if only they had access to a classroom.
“Poverty, lack of infrastructure, gender inequality, climate change and conflict are some of the contributing factors to the lack of education in many countries,” says the Educate Magis Community which, together with Entreculturas (another Jesuit NGO which promotes education as a tool for positive social advancement and equality), is committed to raising awareness of this grossly unjust situation through the Global Red Chair Project. “We are inviting teachers of all Jesuit and Ignatian schools, as global citizens, to take action and join our fight to defend the right to education.”
The red chairs in the classrooms at St Aloysius’ College are just a small part of the campaign organised for and by the students, and coordinated by the Chaplaincy Team, School Council & all the staff. Of the world’s 650 million children of primary school age, 250 million have not learned to read, write or calculate. More than 57 million children cannot go to school because of poverty, discrimination or war.
It is touching to listen to the some of the many reactions of the SAC Primary students upon becoming involved in the Global Red Chair Project:
“I wish I could help them by bringing them to our school”
“For me the Red Chair means that every child has a right to education. Many don’t!”
“I wish I could go to Africa and teach the children who are in need!”
Before the closing of last year’s scholastic year over 720 people, young and not so young, from the whole St Aloysius’ College Primary community, ‘constructed’ the largest human ‘Red Chair’ in Malta, certified by Malta Records, as one of their awareness-raising exercises. “By participating in the Global Red Chair Project our students are made aware of one of the many injustices in the world and are encouraged to find ways to contribute towards bettering the situation, as global citizens,” said Anthony Mifsud, lay Chaplain at SAC Primary and one of the project organisers at the College.
In the face of so much poverty and injustice “we are convinced that education will change their lives. That is why we work to eradicate this injustice, promoting the right to a quality education,” claims Entreculturas.
Pope Francis had this to say, “In a world where technical-scientific progress is so high, there are illiterate children! It’s an injustice. How many children suffer from a lack of education; it’s a condition of great injustice that affects the very dignity of the person. without education, one then easily becomes prey to exploitation and to different forms of social hardship.”
It is the intention of St Aloysius’ College Primary to continue to forge ahead with the project together with all its students, slowly empowering them too to be agents of change. In participating in this project, the SAC Primary followed the example already set by the SAC Secondary School which started participating in the campaign earlier and which won the ‘Red Chair Contributor Award’ for their efforts.
All schools are invited to make use of the extensive resources available for teachers and students on the Global Citizenship – Right to Education – Red Chair Project section of the Educate Magis website.
‘If you also believe that education can change the world …’