Wednesday, March 30, 2011


Cath news report- A new Jesuit primary school will open in the Sydney suburb of Redfern later this year – the first Jesuit school to be established in Australia in 60 years - for Aboriginal students, reports Province Express.

It will provide students with opportunities to learn in a more informal setting, in order to open up more options for them in the future.Tentatively named Jarjum College, the school will identify children who have fallen through the cracks and who are not attending school regularly due to various reasons of disadvantage.

Foundation principal Beatrice Sheen says she's honoured and excited to be involved in the project, and acknowledges that the school's success will depend to largely on the support of the people it serves.

"This college belongs to the community, the people, and that's how I want it to be run," she says.

Jarjum will offer short-term assistance to at-risk children, returning them to the mainstream schooling system wherever possible. But Beatrice concedes that once the community's precise needs are revealed, the model may change.

"[These students] have got different needs. Their learning styles are different. So the kids fall through the gaps, and that's why we're trying to close the gaps. But if we can teach them resilience and they make it to high school, then they've achieved. And if they go further, well....."

And there is no better model of resilience for the future students of Jarjum than Beatrice, a woman who left school at the age of 14 and married when she was just 17.

"My husband was 17, too. We're still together, six children later,", she says.

Beatrice discovered as a child that her father was Aboriginal – a fact hidden from her by the adults in her life. "I'm a Gamilaroi woman from Gunnedah," she says now, with pride.

The school aims to teach the children in a way that appeals to their own special strengths.

"Everything will be practical, because they won't hang around if it's airy fairy. We'll use a different pedagogy for the kids because we want them to come to school, we want to make them welcome, so it's going to be a nice learning environment."

It's a flexible approach that has extended into the community, where locals have been involved in consultation at every step of the process.

"For some of these kids, their parents are in jail, or on drugs. So they're the kids we want to pick up. You do it respectfully by talking, by going out and meeting people. Peter [Hosking SJ, Rector of St Aloysius College] and I have been going out and meeting people. And once we meet them they're okay. And then they're going, "Well, when are you opening? I've got three kids that can go there!"."

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