Education for the Realization of the Preferential Option for the Poor: Catholic Church Activities in Uasin-Gishu County, Kenya (Published)
The present world is largely characterized by people who live in two opposite extremes; the extremely poor and the extremely rich. The challenge of poverty remains a major concern to governments and non-governmental organizations alike. Faith communities respond to poverty by looking to the teachings of Scripture to establish structures and actions that can liberate and empower the poor. The Roman Catholic Church’s commitment to empowering the poor is expressed in its social teaching and practices. Social amenities offered by the church range from provision of food, clothing, shelter, medical care and affordable quality education. Despite such initiatives on the part of the church, poverty is rife. Therefore, based on a study conducted in Uasin-Gishu County in Kenya, this paper examines the activities of the Catholic Diocese of Eldoret in the realization of preferential option for poor students in secondary schools. The study adopted descriptive mixed methods cross-sectional design comprising qualitative and quantitative methodologies. The target population comprised pupils in all the fourteen Catholic-sponsored schools in the Diocese, their head teachers, as well as teachers offering guidance and counselling. A sample of 351 students, 9 head teachers, and 28 teachers were drawn from those schools. Purposive sampling was employed in selecting 24 key informants, 12 from Catholic Diocesan secretariat, 4 priests, 4 officials from the Ministry of Education in the County and 4 members of the management at Catholic University of Eastern Africa (Gaba Campus). Schools were selected using simple random sampling technique while teachers and diocesan education officials were purposively sampled. Kathuri and Pals formula was employed in sampling student population. Questionnaire and interview schedule were the main tools of data collection. Analysed data was presented using cumulative frequency tables, percentages and pie charts. The study established that there are activities that are organised from within the church. The Catholic Diocese of Eldoret manages five key programmes that support poor children in its sponsored schools. Most of them are donor-funded although efforts have been initiated to involve parishes in raising money to sustain them. Based on the findings, it was recommended that the Diocese should explore ways through which continuity is seen in terms of funding. The study found that some projects that were supported by missionaries experience great challenges when the same donors leave. The findings of the study highlight practical strategies that the Catholic Church uses to assist poor children get education.
An Appraisal of the Roman Catholic Church’s Understanding of the Preferential Option for the Poor (Published)
This paper traces the foundation of the doctrine of the preferential option for the poor from the Old Testament into the New Testament. The paper also draws its arguments from Liberation Theology and prophetic messages in the Old Testament of the Bible. It then proceeds to highlight the teachings on option for the poor from Catholic social teachings, especially magisterial documents. The paper is a product of literature review for a research project on the topic of preferential option for the poor which was conducted in the Catholic Diocese of Eldoret in Kenya. From the review, it is evident that the option was given an impetus in the New Testament through the person of Jesus Christ whose messianic activities fulfilled what the prophets of old had foretold. Although the Messiah suffered death on the cross, the teaching of the Catholic Catechism presents this as liberation per se. As such, the Biblical notion of God opting to stand on the side of the poor, right from the time of the people of Israel to latter Christianity, continues to influence the Catholic Social teaching as evidenced by major papal documents and patristic teachings. Underlying the option is the conviction that the Church cannot isolate itself from the community that it is required to transform. Therefore, the preferential option for the poor is a teaching that had been received and domesticated as shown not only by the establishment of schools in the diocese but more so the way poor students get support.