Spiritual development: What is its significance to learners?

Every parent wants their child to succeed; that is why they make sacrifices to keep them in school.

Educationists say that it is important to guide learners in a way that will ‘build’ them long after they are done with school.

Like other subjects, they need to learn about the religion they subscribe to.

“The new syllabus encourages us to use examples of God’s work as we teach; this will uplift their need for Him, however, we call upon parents to continue teaching them about religion when they are at home. Let them read a religious book after doing their homework,” says Jacqueline Irabagiza, a teacher and counsellor at Martyrs School in Remera.

She adds that when children are exposed to religious material, they will learn more about God and will be able to distinguish good and bad.

Collins Odhiambo, a counsellor and teacher, says that learners ought to know that religion itself is very educative and the morals taught in various religions are essential in building character, behaviour, and discipline, among others.

“All the above values are key when it comes to how a student performs academically. Understand that without religion, academia wouldn’t be in existence because before these curriculums were introduced, there was religion,” he says.

Odhiambo says that religion is spiritual while academics are brain-based, therefore, students should not have a hard time coping with both. He advises that they should make a timetable to help them balance their time well, that means knowing when to study and when to engage in religious activities as both are important.

Theoneste Ngiruwonsanga, a language teacher at College APPEC Remera—Rukasoma, says: “Every day after class, learners at our school meet in their respective religious fellowships to pray, worship and praise. This gives them a sense of belonging.”

He explains that teachers come in to guide and advise, especially about what the Holy Books say, for example, loving one another, helping the needy, respecting elders, forgiving one another, and living together in harmony.

Ngiruwonsanga says that on Sundays, religious leaders are invited to conduct services which strengthen the students’ belief in God; however, he calls upon school leaders to introduce religious fellowships and allocate time for students to attend.

He believes that students need to include God in their agenda, as this will boost their overall performance.

Schools should also be mindful of students’ religious affiliation, for example, if they are Christian or Muslim, among others.

Parents’ share their views

“We must teach children to associate with other believers; they should have spiritual mentors at school that they can go to for guidance. We should support and encourage them to be knowledgeable spiritually,” says Christine Nsengimana, a mother of two and a resident of Nyarutarama.

She explains that parents should be role models when it comes to spiritual matters, so that it is easy to preach to youngsters. If family members gather to pray before going to bed, learners will imitate that even when at school. Parents should encourage their children to pray before revision, a meal or bedtime. Praying should be a part of them, but you must explain to them why it is important.

“Encourage them to be patient, of course you should expect questions like, “why do I have to read the Bible or pray every day?” Remember minors get fed up easily, especially if the same thing is done often. You just have to convince them that every minute is worth it, and that eventually, it will come naturally,” says Evans Mutabazi, a businessman and father of one.

Mutabazi encourages children to take interest in simple religious books that will guide them accordingly. However, parents and teachers should follow-up and ask them questions on the lessons learnt.

He advises parents and teachers to let learners participate in Bible quizzes, or something similar.

Nsengimana adds that minors should know that when they believe in God, He will provide; it takes faith but they must know that with faith, they can never go wrong.

Mutabazi says, “We should encourage religious skits during drama sessions and all students should be given a role.”

What they say

Valens Safari, Educationist

Learners need to stretch beyond academics; they should know how they were created and why. They ought to know about the supreme nature of God and why He is the only one that deserves to be praised, and this can be through teachers’ and parents’ guidance.  Let children know that it is God who helps them fulfil their tasks and so much more. When they are given a good religious foundation, their actions will portray God’s greatness and He will guide them to excellence.

Aggrey Buhungiro, Teacher — Kigali Parents School

Children should be encouraged to start assembly with a song and word of prayer. They should say the Lord’s Prayer every morning before lessons start for God to guide them and help them understand what the teacher passes on. Teachers should help them grow spiritually. I think the Lord’s Prayer should be pinned in front of every classroom so that everyone is able to read it at all times. Minors should be taught the power of prayer; they should not rush through it or do it for the sake of getting it over with.

Celestin Hategekimana, Lecturer and expert in Development Studies — University of Kibungo

Teachers and parents should help learners understand that God is Ruler, and they must pray as they read their books because if they don’t, they will not perform that well. Faith and prayer will make even the most irresponsible students succeed. Students must balance their hours of study and prayer. If 80 per cent is spent on academics, then 20 should be for prayer and meditation and other religious-based activities. However, it is risky for children to fast, especially during exams.

Enos Tumwikirize, Head of English Department — Kigali Parents School

School leaders ought to schedule time on their academic programmes so that students are given an opportunity to learn and discover more about their religious beliefs and why they should follow or act as the Bible instructs them to. This will help them switch easily from academics to religion, hence, balancing both. Studies are wide, religion is also part of them and that is why it should not be taken for granted.


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