Congo Schools Network This is a forum where Head Teachers, boarding supervisors and teachers can come together to discuss educational matters and bring the educative spirit of the Congregation right to the heart of the school. Our goal: to move towards operating as a network Peter Fourier’s proposal was innovative when he wrote: “The Sisters will be devoted to God and to their neighbour. First and foremost, they will be school teachers and will live in religious communities in order to be better school teachers.” The Congregation of Our Lady was founded to form educators. For Peter Fourier, school and community are inextricably linked, for Education is a community-based task: we grow together. He wanted a religious community dedicated to education, to making others grow, most importantly young girls who would become the women of the future. The current situation in Congo, whose history has resulted in a loss of values, requires us to consider this together, as a network: - How should we be educating children today? - What must we give young people? What kind of educators do they need? - How should we provide for and form the adults who guide the young people in our schools? Notre-Dame Schools in Congo In Kolwezi we have 2 nursery schools, 6 primary schools and 2 secondary schools (lycées). In Lubumbashi, the Congregation opened a private school, six years ago, comprising a nursery and primary school (work in progress). In Mukula Kulu, the Congregation is responsible for running a state school. From the very early days of the Congregation, our Founder, St Peter Fourier, called on us to educate every person, “whether rich or poor”; our schools today remain faithful to this invitation and take in children and teenagers of all backgrounds, from the town centre or from the surrounding estates. We therefore have 5293 pupils coming into our Notre-Dame schools every day (841 in nursery; 2341 in primary school, and 2111 in secondary). The Congregation has taken the initiative of setting up a network of Notre-Dame Schools to encourage the formation of links between the schools. In this way the teaching staff will be able to meet to collaborate fully on teaching methods, administration and spiritual development. The desired result, in the short term, is to standardise teaching methods and to maintain a high level and quality of teaching in all Notre-Dame schools, whether in the town centre or on the outskirts. Formation sessions will be organised throughout the year with head teachers, teachers and Sisters, with the aim of creating and strengthening bonds and providing materials for staff. A balance will be sought between professional development sessions, social times and spiritual development, through shared meals, communal prayer and practical formation sessions. Feedback from teachers after a formation session I teach at EP6. MWANGA. Here are my heart-felt reactions to the formation received … … For me, the most important was the practical ways we were shown to increase our knowledge. New ideas are constantly being introduced into teaching. We must always be up-to-date. The formation leader significantly boosted our bank of knowledge… This initiative by the Congregation means that all the teaching staff of Notre-Dame schools can now live together and speak the same language, especially the slogans which have come from our Founders: “Make him grow”; “May God be your only love”; “Be useful to all and harm none”. We would like to pursue ongoing formation, and would appreciate more lesson samples to ensure the good quality of the education we provide to our pupils. We hope that this will also happen in our Sernafor [National Formation Service] sessions in school. We ask you please to get involved in these, as your support is essential for us and greatly reassuring. On behalf of all teaching staff, we wish you courage and perseverance! May God be present in all the good ideas you generate to develop our Notre-Dame schools. One does not necessarily have to be of the same blood as a child to be its mother. By coming together for formation, we are being more than a Mother... There is no doubt that formation is an integral part of founder ALIX le CLERC’s goal: to quote her again, “Make them grow”. Formation will help us develop the work already started. We pray it will become regular practice for our own good and the good of our children.