Once a Canisian. Always a Canisian.

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The Irish Jesuit Missions’ series “Achievement in Africa” brings us to Zambia to the Jesuit Secondary school of St Canisius in Monze. The present day buildings bear no resemblance in appearance to the original founded by the Jesuits in 1949: the first school founded by the Society of Jesus in the area. But in its educational approach, it has remained consistent across time.

An education ahead of its time

An institution ahead of its time, it has offered from the beginning character formation based on values rather than on material gain. Developed on the idea of Christian Community which means living in community with appreciation of work and service for others.

Intellectual formation that aims for the highest excellence in the arts and sciences sets the standard for students. In this video Fr R. Dhanapalan SJ, Education Delegate, describes St Canisius as a renowned high performance school in Zambia. Students travel from all over the country to study there.

The moral values of students based on the principals of the Catholic faith, provide the environment for personal prayer and liturgical worship. From the outset, students of other faiths have worshiped and prayed according to their own beliefs.  Fr EIpidius Kalyepe SJ describes his Chaplaincy work with students and staff in this short video interview.

Enter the girls

For a period of 22 years the school was co educational. In1969 the first group of young girls arrived and the Junior section of Canisian girls was established taught and cared for by the Irish Sisters of Charity.The image below is of Form 2 which was the higest class in the school by 1956: gender balance in the classroom had not yet become an issue at the time! The girl’s secondary school became a separate entity on the first day of 1992.

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The Irish Jesuits must have presented a favourable image of Ireland. Ms Mable Chilenga, above, left her native country to live in Dublin and now works as receptionist at the Irish Jesuit Missions office.

Fr Joesph Hayes SJ, bottom left, now living in Limerick, Ireland, taught at St Canisius and was involved with teachers’ initiatives – marriage courses, formation with Zambian colleagues, celebrating the Eurcharist in in their homes – all appreciated by the teaching staff and to Fr Joe: “a source of deep consolation as the power of the Lord and His Spirit flowed so clearly thought our efforts.” He wrote that when: “The AIDS pandemic began to reap its terrible havoc…staff pioneered a course in life skills needed to learn healthy sexuality and relationship skills. These courses were then offered to our own pupils.” In later years, the Red Cross Society and the Anti-Aids Club were established at St Canisius to sensitise students on health issues.

So many clubs. So little time.

Across the decades, the commitment has always been to the whole development of the young men. St Canisius’ Irish Jesuits and staff haven’t missed an opportunity to start up clubs of every conceivable kind for the development of their students’ interests and skills.

From the Drama Club in 1949 with Macbeth and The Pirates of Penzance to the Cinema, Library, Debating, Young Farmers, French Language, Writers, Geography, Music, Geology, Electronics, Maths, Astronomy, and Magicians – the list is endless! And of course, there are a variety of sports to choose from. There’s never a dull moment at St Canisius Secondary School. 

As the past pupils proudly post to their Facebook page: “Once a Canisian. Always a Canisian.”

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Images and videos by courtesy of the Jesuit Zambia/Malawi Development Office

Author: Compiled by Irish Jesuit Missions Communications with material drawn from St Canisius Yearbooks and “The Canisian Golden Jubilee 1949 – 1999”. June 30th 2016