(Speech by Bishop José Luis IMC at the launching of the ProFuturo programme in the Kingdom of Eswatini – 01 June 2022)
Livi laba yinyama!
The Catholic Church in the Kingdom of Eswatini has always shown a clear commitment to the education of the children and young people in the Swazi Nation. The 47 primary schools, 13 high schools and a nursing college are a clear witness to that.
It goes deeper than that. It is not just about having schools or tertiary institutions. It’s a commitment to quality education and to making sure that the education we offer through our institutions will open doors to them in the future. We believe that the energy we invest in the education of children and youth, strengthens their dignity and offers a better future to the whole nation.
How many times people I might know or not would stop me on the street and let me know that what they are today is the fruit of their education in a Catholic school. I always thank God for that.
It was in 2013, during a meeting in Maseru (Lesotho) of Catholic Bishops from nine countries in Southern Africa, that one of them, the now late bishop of Lwena in Angola, asked me if our diocese had Catholic schools in eSwatini. That very same day he put me in touch with ProFuturo in Spain.
This organisation born out of the wish of Pope Francis to make an impact in the education of the children, provides digital education to narrow the education gap in the world by improving the quality of education for millions of children living in vulnerable environments like ours.
As soon as I contacted them, they replied full of excitement about bringing their programme to the Kingdom of Eswatini. I could not hide my excitement either.
My excitement was ever greater when, some years’ ago, I presented this to you and you immediately welcomed it convinced that this was something His Majesty’s government wanted for our education system.
Our meeting was followed by another one with the late Prime Minister His Excellency, Mandvulo Ambrose Dlamini who assured us His Majesty’s government commitment to make it possible as a pilot project for the Catholic Primary Schools in the Kingdom of Eswatini.
When we were ready to launch this project in March 2020, COVID19 changed our plans. We had to wait for a full year until we would be able to take the following step. Now, we thank God, it is slowly taking shape in our 47 Catholic Primary Schools.
We are passionate about this programme which targets children both in urban and rural areas. This means that a rural area can offer the same quality education of an urban one.
The digital equipment has been especially prepared for children in primary schools and it cannot be found in the country. This also means that any person or family with a ProFuturo tablet at home would have to explain where he or she got it from! The equipment includes a GPS system which would allow the police to track them in case someone considers taking them from the school.
In any case, they are completely useless out of the school because they are not like any other tablet you buy in a shop. You cannot put a SIM card inside them, nor connect to the internet. They only work inside the school.
I am unable to understand how anyone could ever think of stealing equipment being brought to improve the education of our children. In the same way I have never been able to understand that someone could think of setting alight the library of a school. As I wrote a statement a few months’ ago, we do not know who might do something like this but we do know who pays the price: our children. They continue to be the victims of us, adults, who selfishly think only of making money out of the most vulnerable ones. A society built in this kind of violence has absolutely no future.
Aside of the security measures I have mentioned, I want to entrust this project to the parents and relatives of these children. I entrust this project to the community at large, to those who care for the future of this nation. You always know what happens in the community and who is responsible. We cannot be silent when someone might want to trample with our future.
As this equipment has come for free to the country it is essential that we are able to show to those who have sacrificed themselves to make it possible, that we are trustworthy as a nation.
I would like to thank you once again for your constant support, without it we would not be here today. Please thank for us every office of His Majesty’s government who have been helped us to make it possible.
Our thanks goes also to ProFuturo for their generosity, for their commitment, for being able to do things in a new way during COVID19, for understanding us when the unrest delayed once again the project. They are an amazing partner to work with and I hope and pray they are as happy with us, as we are with them.
May God bless us all.