Companions Programme-Exclusive Interview
Today we have an exclusive interview with Lynette, the Programmes Officer in Zimbabwe, who coordinates the Companions Programme in Zimbabwe. A scheme that links schools in the UK with those in Zimbabwe.
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When did you first get involved with the Companions Programme with Jesuit Missions UK?
Lynette: When I first got employed as Programmes Officer by the Jesuit Education Office in Harare two years ago, I was assigned to directly coordinate the Companions Programme for all Jesuit schools in Zimbabwe. My job also involves liaising with Samantha (Education for Justice Coordinator, UK) at Jesuit Missions to ensure that schools in the UK and those in Zimbabwe continue to have meaningful exchanges.
What have you learnt from the programme?
Lynette: The Companions Programme gives us (as Jesuit Missions); the opportunity to reach out into the global spheres that are outside of our normal geographical boundaries and share our cultures and our Jesuit Values with each other. The Companionship that is shared by the schools is a great way to bring international education to life for students in Zimbabwe and also in the UK.
How do you think it has benefited the partner schools in Zimbabwe?
Lynette: Besides the material donations from schools in the UK to support infrastructural developments in Partner schools, The Companions Programme offers schools in both UK and Zimbabwe the opportunity to renew and deepen their Jesuit charism through sharing and exchanging joint projects relating to their individual schools, their way of worship and their general ways of life. Students have learned the value of being “Men and Women with and for others” through sharing and exchanging global issues affecting the Partner school’s communities.
Some primary schools have tremendously benefitted over the past few years from the Happy Readers Literacy Programme which has been made possible by donations by their partner schools and the schools communities. The Happy Readers have greatly contributed to the increase in literacy levels of learners at these schools.
What are the Children able to learn from this Programme?
Lynette: The 21st century demands for young adults who are global citizens, aware of the world around them and sensitive to the different cultures and religions. As Fr. General said, in the International Congress for Jesuit Education Delegates in Rio de Janeiro, it is of paramount importance for students in Jesuit schools to:
“joyfully acknowledge the existence of other human beings with different cultures to establish relationships of equality with them and to enrich themselves with a diversity of cultures that includes their own. In this way, students can become aware of being part of a single human community”.
The Companions Programme therefore enables students in Zimbabwe to be globally minded and socially conscious citizens of the world. Through joint project exchanges, students are able to be curious and ultimately learn more about the world in which we live. It gives them the opportunity to imagine life beyond their geographical boundaries and to engage in inter-religious dialogues and become more tolerant of each other’s differences and begin to appreciate cultural diversity.
What do you hope for in the future of the Companions Programme?
Lynette: My greatest wish is for improved relations between the Companion schools characterised by periodic sharing of collaborative learning projects, more frequent communication between students and teachers from the schools involved and for Partner schools to have a common vision and achievable goals to guide their relations.
What were you or the schools able to learn from Sam’s visit to Zimbabwe earlier this year?
Lynette: The visit solidified the need for schools to reflect and re-think on their relationships with their partner schools.
What is your favourite part of the Companions Programme?
Lynette: The opportunity it offers for schools to share our Ignatian spirituality and Jesuit Identity with each other.
Read our exclusive Interview with Sam, our Education for Justice Coordinator in the UK, here.