28 January 2015
Sri Lanka, 28 January 2015 - Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS), in collaboration with Jesuit Commons: Higher Education at the Margins (JC:HEM) and Jesuits of Sri Lanka, launched the first ONLINE CERTIFICATE COURSES affiliated to GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY, USA, on 28 January 2015, at JRS Loyola Campus, Thalaimannar Road, Mannar, north Sri Lanka. Rt. Rev. Rayappu Joseph D.D. Bishop of Mannar, was the Chief Guest, while Rev. Fr. Jeyaraj Rasaiah SJ, Provincial of Sri Lanka Jesuit Province, was the Guest of Honour. Several Priests, Sisters and students attended the hour-long inauguration program.
36 higher education institutions (including Regis University, Georgetown University, Scranton University, and University of San Francisco) support this initiative through making available volunteer faculty and providing academic accreditations. Currently JC:HEM offers two types of programs: 4-month short-term Certificate courses known as Community Service Learning Tracks (CSLT) for specific skills, and a 3-year Diploma program in Liberal Arts. There are 300 students enrolled in the Diploma course, and 450 are doing CSLTs. The JC:HEM courses are being offered at the Kakuma Camp in Kenya, the Dzaleka camp in Malawi, Aleppo in Syria, Amman in Jordon, Herat in Afghanistan, in Thailand, Chad, Philippines, etc. Students of any race, colour, religion, national origin, and ethnic origin are admitted to all the programs. The motto of JC:HEM is: Transform Thinking...Transform the World.
This online education initiative is primarily aimed at providing access to tertiary education for the youth of Mannar and surrounding areas, who otherwise do not have opportunity to study degree courses. Less than 20% of the students who pass A-level (the equivalent of Higher Secondary) are selected by the government of Sri Lanka for admission to the state universities and teacher training colleges. Those who do not succeed can now go for certificate and diploma courses through the JRS Mannar centre, christened Pope Francis Jesuit Academy, in memory of the Pope’s recent visit to Sri Lanka from Jan 13-15, 2015.
JRS/JC:HEM aims to empower the youth and the local community through higher education. Presently we begin with two four-month certificate courses in English, in order to provide a solid foundation in the English language skills, as all the JC:HEM courses are taught only in English. Next year, the successful English certificate course completed students would be chosen to go for other certificate courses or a three-year diploma course.
Mannar was chosen to launch this venture because it is one of the areas devastated by the three decades of ethnic conflict.
While appreciating this important step, the Bishop as well as the Provincial expressed their desire to have more such centres in other parts of north and east Sri Lanka.
JC:HEM is a pioneering initiative of the Society of Jesus that has a rich and centuries-long tradition of higher education. It mobilizes and offers the resources of the Jesuit worldwide network of educational institutions to those at the margins of our society, using modern online technology.-Joe Victor SJ, JC:HEM Sri Lanka Director