Hope for a New Generation

Evangelicals Unite for Africa’s Children


“Unemployment, poverty, female excision, AIDS and other communicable diseases—in Burkina Faso, we are confronted daily with these issues and more because of ignorance and lack of education,” said Alliance missionary Debbi Clouser. She and her husband have served in the West African country, one of the poorest in the world, since 1985.

They work with the Dafing people group, providing leadership training, literacy skills and Christian education. As a regional educational consultant for Africa, Clouser meets with missionary families and schools to help determine the best possible options regarding children’s education.

“We are constantly reminded that providing education for people is one of the primary ways to reach them with the gospel,” said Clouser, who has been invited to take part in Africa Roundtable, a continent-wide gathering to consider strategies for establishing Christ-centered primary schools in Burkina Faso and across Africa.

Christ-Centered Education

Primary school enrollments in Africa are among the lowest in the world, and education is adversely affected by limited funds and lack of adequate numbers of teachers, classrooms and learning materials. All this is exacerbated by the impact of HIV/AIDS on the educational system (www.usaid.gov/locations/sub-Saharan_africa).

In addition, approximately one in two people of sub-Saharan Africa survive on less than one dollar per day; 33 percent of the population suffers from malnutrition, and the average life expectancy is 41 years. Children account for half of civilian casualties in wars, and one in six children dies before the age of five. Less than half of Africa’s population has access to medical treatment (United Nations Development Programme).

This month, Africa Roundtable will bring together African Christian leaders, teachers and missionaries such as Clouser to encourage strategic partnerships to advance continental change. They will offer Christ-centered schooling by integrating biblical truths into a government-mandated curriculum.

“It is estimated that more than 42 million children in sub-Saharan Africa are out of school,” stated Dr. Philip Renicks, an official Alliance worker on special assignment as vice president for International Ministries at Association of Christian Schools International (ACSI), the organization facilitating the event. Renicks also served at Alliance Academy in Quito, Ecuador, for nine years.

In the past, missionaries and nongovernmental organizations have used Western ideas to solve Africa’s problems with little success. “We want African leaders to find African solutions to African problems,” Renicks said. Forging partnerships between the national church and parachurch organizations such as ACSI will help bring a unified direction among Christian leaders to an urgently needed solution that will impact the future of the Church and its effectiveness for generations to come.

Building Hope

African children are the future of the continent. Education will provide them with the ability to break the cycle of poverty through intellectual development and spiritual formation that will prepare them to take their place as leaders. ACSI is uniquely positioned to be a catalyst to bring together the evangelical community to focus on the role of the Church and Christian schooling to reach the lost and future generations of Africa through Christ-centered education.

ACSI Open School enables member schools and national churches to serve educationally marginalized children. Volunteers take literacy and mathematics curricula supplemented by life skills and health education material to informal settings, offering free education to children living on the street, orphans and child laborers. Open School students are typically between the ages of 9 and 15 years. Through the curriculum, children learn that they are special because they are loved by God and He wants them to be counted in His Kingdom.

The Key

The C&MA mission of Burkina Faso, in partnership with CAMA (Compassion and Mercy Associates) and the national church, envisions establishing primary schools across the nation that will provide Christian education. ACSI is willing to come alongside these institutions to ensure that they are schools of quality and integrity, giving training and advice to leaders and educators.

Phase one of this vision involves the establishment of three primary schools. Property has already been acquired for the first school, which will be situated in Bobo-Dioulasso, the second largest city in the country.

Clouser believes Christian education is the key to impacting future generations and changing the current tide of social disaster in Africa. Introducing the lost to Christ is essential in meeting this challenge.

It is said that one of the major world religions has not been able to gain a foothold in the neighboring country of Ghana because Christian missionaries built primary schools 50 years ago, when the country acquired independence. “They began training a generation of Christians in these schools,” said Clouser. “Today the country’s leaders are Christians, having an incredible impact on the country.”

h3. A God-Given Opportunity

The Lord has opened doors to reach lost and hurting people in Africa. Educating the next generation with God’s truth will bring light and hope to the hopeless. “The mission and the church can no longer ignore the need for education as part of their mission strategy,” said Clouser. “I believe the Africa Roundtable will provide the momentum necessary to energize the evangelical church of Africa to develop strategic plans to propel the agenda to the forefront of their churches, ministry and community development. Church and mission leaders and leaders in education from across Africa must come together to develop African solutions for an African problem.”

Clouser stated, “We are looking for partners who not only will give financially for the building of these schools but also will send teams to help with construction. In the future, there will be a need to provide sponsorships for students as well. As God leads us, we rely on Him to meet our needs as we proceed with this opportunity to impact lives and change the direction of social disaster in Burkina Faso.”

You can be part of this project by giving to the approved special entitled “Elementary Schools–Burkina Faso” through the C&MA National Office, PO Box 35000, Colorado Springs, CO 80935-3500.

Deadly Customs

AIDS is devastating Africa, accounting for 70 percent of the total number of people infected with HIV/AIDS and 80 percent of the resulting deaths. AIDS seems to target the young, lowering overall life expectancy and wreaking havoc on economic and social programs. It is estimated that 18 million children are orphaned because of AIDS in Africa. By 2010, it is predicted that there will be about 15.7 million AIDS orphans in sub-Saharan Africa (www.avert.org/aidsorphans, Phillip Yancey, Christianity Today, September 2006).

According to a December 2006 press release by the International Labour Organization in Geneva, Switzerland, “the relentless advance of HIV/AIDS is markedly reducing economic and employment growth . . . jeopardizing efforts to reduce poverty, create new jobs, especially for youth, and fight child labour. The impact of the epidemic is particularly severe for children and youth whose lives, hopes and futures are blighted directly or indirectly by HIV/AIDS” (allafrica.com: Africa: New ILO Report, 2006).

Also contributing to death in childbirth and infant mortality is female excision, the removal of external genitalia. Stemming from cultural beliefs and superstitions, the rite, which began in Africa nearly 2,000 ago, is believed to enhance femininity and often is seen as proof of womanhood. The procedure can cause an array of side effects, including serious infection and death.

Female excision has been prohibited recently in Kenya and several other West African countries, but no enforcement followed. However, in Burkina Faso, government and nongovernment entities began a campaign to end the practice. The National Excision Control Committee was created in Burkina Faso and tasked with gradually eliminating female excision upon the country’s legislation to ban the practice, punishable by six months to three years’ imprisonment (Inter-Parliamentary Union http://www.ipu.org/wmn-e/fgm-prov-b.htm, www.religioustolerence.org).

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