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Marist Bulletin - Number 154


Br. Lawrence Ndawala

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Br. Lawrence Ndawala: “The religious atmosphere is always present in our Marist schools today”

Brother Lawrence Ndawala, 43 years old, was born in Balaka, Malawi. He served as a teacher and director of the Juniorate, a Marist preparatory school for future brothers in Mtendere. He has a Licentiate in Consecrated Life at the Claretian University in Rome, took part in the program for formators in Valpré, France, and was a member of the 20th General Chapter representing the Marist Province of Southern Africa. At the present time he is working in the Novitiate at Kutama, Zimbabwe, where there are 28 Novices from 7 African countries.

Start of the Marist Brothers’ apostolate of schools in Malawi

The Brothers were invited to Malawi from Zimbabwe by the then Bishop of the Lilongwe Diocese, Bishop Fady, back in 1946. Since then, they have been working in schools and Teacher Training colleges. Mtendere mission station, now Mtendere secondary school on the Mtendere Campus, was the cradle of the Brothers in Malawi.

In 1949, they took over the responsibility of Saint John’s Teacher Training College at Likuni from the White Fathers. The Teachers’ College was then transferred to Lilongwe and in 1975 the Marist Brothers handed over the College to the Diocese of Lilongwe. By that time, Likuni had become a secondary school.

Back in 1953, the White Fathers in the Diocese of Chipata, Eastern Province of Zambia, handed over Chassa Secondary School to the Marist Brothers. The Brothers are still administering this school on behalf of the Diocese.

At the request of the Monfort Fathers at Zomba Catholic Secondary School, the Marist Brothers took over the running of the school in 1954, and they are still managing this school on behalf of Zomba Diocese.

St. Charles Lwanga Secondary School in Balaka was the last centre to receive Brothers. The Montfort Fathers in the Mangochi Diocese invited the Brothers to work at Balaka.

As the Brothers became involved in the public sector, they also opened a house of formation at Mtendere back in 1949, a few years after their arrival in Malawi. The Juniorate has now become a private secondary school.

Collaboration between Missionaries and the Government

At the beginning the schools were run entirely by the missionaries. Missionaries should be understood as both the Catholic and Protestant churches. They had their own system of recruiting teachers through the Teachers Training Colleges they had established. At one point the government decided to help the missionaries in this noble task and offered to supply teachers and grants to assist in the running the schools.

According to the Memorandum of Understanding these schools were called grant-aided institutions and received a per capita grant to help in running the schools. Fees that the school collected made up for any shortfalls in the administration. The government also appointed teachers to the schools without paying any attention to the religious character of the school. But the religious denominations had the right to appoint the Head Teacher and his deputy.

After independence, selection of pupils to the schools became the prerogative of the Government, and during the late 1990’s, grant-aided denominational schools were allowed to select 15% of their intake from among pupils of their choice.

Religious dimension in our Marist schools today

The religious atmosphere is always present. Activities such as Young Christian Students (YCS) and other youth groups are doing good work. Prayer sessions are a common activity on specific days. Brothers and lay teachers are often found as monitors of these groups. Groups of a specific religious character, other than Catholic, often receive help from outside the school. A feast like Champagnat Day receives special attention from the Brothers. In short the schools never lack religious celebrations. This includes mass twice or three times a week for the Catholics and those who want to join.

Participation of the laity in the spirit of Marcellin

Participation of the laity with the spirit of Marcellin is often lacking. There needs to be an initiation or a catechesis about the spirituality of Marcellin. There is hardly any teacher in the Marist schools that says he is aspiring to take on the spirituality of Marcellin as a way of life. The Brothers are often responsible for this state of affairs.

1. It is possible that the majority of the Brothers haven’t seen the need for it. They have been working with the laity without a formal catechesis about the spirituality of Marcellin. In general the mission schools are the best in the country and parents appreciate the formation their children receive in these schools.

2. The Brothers need enlightenment. They have to look around and see what others are doing in this field. We are enriched when there is a sharing of ideas with those from other regions. We have to make an effort and look around.

3. The Brothers need to rediscover and appreciate the spirituality of Marcellin. They have to realise, especially today, that they are few in number compared to the lay people doing the same work in the schools. How can we run a school with a Marist Spirit without involving the majority of the teachers in the school?

4. There is a smaller percentage of Catholic teachers in the schools that the Brothers run. It is a burden when the majority of teachers, out of fifteen or more, do not understand what you want to achieve. There could be teachers of good will who would appreciate what is to be done, but not many. The majority see themselves as government workers, not as teachers belonging to the ‘religion’ of a particular school.

5. We must admit also that some Brothers are just not interested or somewhat lazy in this regard. They see themselves as professional teachers who after their class is over, sit around and wait for the next day to begin.

These could be some of the reasons for the lack of enthusiasm in making the spirit of Marcellin known and lived by our lay staff. All the same I think something can be done about the issue of the laity because sooner or later the laity will take the lead. Situations will force us to look for alternatives, as has happened in other regions of the Marist world. I just pray that we not wait for that time to share the spirit of Marcellin with all those who are working and living with us.

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