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The work for education and solidarity of the Marist Brothers on the Ivory Coast

01/04/2014: Côte dIvoire

The programme “Pueblo de Dios”, of TVE 2, retransmitted on 23 March a report on the work for education and solidarity of the Marist Brothers and SED, the Spanish Marist NGO, in the town of Korobó on the Ivory Coast.

Under the title of ‘In the country of the Senufi’, the reporters focused on the Marist mission in the country, where the Brothers have been present since the end of the 1960s. In this case, the report revolved around the college of ‘Marcelino Champagnat’, founded in 1988 as “a clear option for the poorest”, explains Br José Antonio Ruiz, and which faced a hard period of civil violence in the country, with hardly any impact on its activity. Jules Koffi, director of the center, explains “it was closed only in the course of 2002-2003 and including at the height of the crisis we took classes in the cathedral”.

The college offers training at all stages of Secondary and vies decidedly to guarantee the right of education to all. For this reason, SED has implemented a scholarship programme, which the center distributes among the most   needy. Fernando Domínguez, in charge of the NGO in the city, assures that “the scholarships can break the vicious circle of poverty”. It is in this sense that Br José Antonio explains the message which is passed onto the students: “The best present you can give your parents is to take advantage of the studies you are given” because “education is the best way of struggling against marginalization and is the only way to be useful to society”.

The Marist identity is also obvious in the climate of brotherhood. While the political power uses the influence of religion to confront the citizens, the father of one student explains that “for me, the relationship between Moslems and Catholics is a relationship of brotherhood”. And a student of the college states that “being at Champagnat is like being at home; the brothers are concerned for us and, if you have a problem, you can count on them”.

The Marist educational work does not finish with daylight. The brothers and lay teachers also give literacy classes at night in the rooms of the neighbouring parish of San Antonio de Padua. Bursaries are also provided for these adult students to help them learn to read and write.

The mission in Korobó counts on the light of Brother Miguel Ángel Isla, one of the four Brothers murdered in the Congo, former Zaire, in 1996, by a group which wanted no witnesses to the horror of the war, the report explained. “He is a great inspiration for us; in him we also see an image of what Saint Marcelin Champagnat was: a great worker”, says Jules Koffi, director of the college.

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