Port Moresby: A monitoring program carried out by the National Catholic Education Services was conducted from 17th – 21st May 2021, at the Dioceses of Wabag, Mendi, Mt. Hagen, Jiwaka and Kundiawa.
Facilitating the program were Mr. Michael Ova Secretary for Catholic Education and Chairman of National Churches Education Council, and Assistant Secretary, Ms. Fiona Wenama.
The monitoring program came a week after the Catholic Education Secretaries and Coordinators Annual Conference in Port Moresby and served as an assessment into the implementation of what was received during the Conference. The Highlands region was the first to have its provinces assessed.
The main focus of the trip was to follow up on the education secretaries and coordinators and observe the strategies they had in place on how best the Catholic Identity was promoted in schools in the region and how each school was implementing the Religious Philosophy.
Mr. Ova said the trip gave them the opportunity to experience first-hand what the situation was really like on the ground where Catholic schools were concerned. “We spoke to the CES and CEC of the different dioceses, and even came into contact with a few headmasters, teachers and students so we were able to collect information from different angles to see how much effort we were putting into promoting our Catholic Identity in our agency schools as well as the implementation of Religious Education lessons for students,” he said.
He mentioned that it was quite an experience to really go out and encounter different play-makers of the Catholic Education system, especially meeting and speaking with students and teachers who were the receivers of the decisions being made at the top. He said they even had the privilege of visiting staff and students of Kumin Primary School in Mendi, Pompabus Primary School in Mt Hagen and Sari Primary School in Wabag.
Some of the important aspects that were highlighted and raised questions during the follow up was the frequency of parish priests visiting the schools in their parish or diocese; how often Masses were celebrated and if Feast Days of the schools were observed as stated in the Church Code for Teachers 1, 2 and 3.
Mr. Ova said that they enquired on the situation with how non-Catholic teachers and students participated in the different religious activities of the school and stressed that it was policy that all should take part regardless of denomination as these were Catholic agency schools. “We are also concerned if the schools conduct spiritual retreats for their students according to their grades so as to promote the Catholic Identity as well as provide formation for the youngsters,” he added.
He stated that even though judging by the information collected that more work needed to be done, he was satisfied that they (NCES) now had in their grasp the availability of recent information that they could use to update their data and that was courtesy of the trip.
He said the data they had was dated to four years ago and that was not essential and reliable in terms of planning ahead on more strategic ways to maintain and promote the Catholic Identity in agency schools as well as the Child Protection Policy which aimed at safeguarding the well-being of each student.
Headmasters were also encouraged to budget for rosaries, statues, crucifixes and other spiritual items that may be used during religious activities.
Mr. Ova went on to say that regardless, those who were interviewed were very pleased with their presence as they shared that it was first of its kind for someone of such status to come down to their level and ask them what was truly the issues of the agency schools.