Question time was officially over but the young man wanted to ask something of Archbishop Hiltz. He was about 16, tall and serious, and he jogged up to the microphone to ask this question before the 700 other students gathered at St. Nicholas School.
“How do I know which Mark of Mission I should focus on in my life?”
Archbishop Hiltz smiled. He had just encouraged the students to consider how their future careers might be linked to a mark. Now he was confronted with the how-to of discernment—a question that clearly stalks young people across cultures.
“I have tried to lay a table for you,” said Archbishop Hiltz kindly. “It may take some time to find your way.” Then he shared a bit of his own personal story of education as the young man nodded and smiled.
Questions of spirit, mind, and practical vocation are intertwined at the more than 100 schools run by the Anglican Church of Melanesia. Education is a provincial priority and the church aims to offer excellent academics and a deep spiritual life.
St. Nicholas, Honiara, is ACOM’s biggest school, with more than 1,400 students ranging in ages from 3 to 20. Several teachers told me that enrolment is competitive; St. Nicholas is considered elite, especially among the majority Anglican population.
In the Solomons, 25 per cent of school-age children do not attend school. The government pays for education up to form six (age 12) but fees are required for most secondary schools.
Beyond this, higher education is a challenge. Some professionals like teachers and nurses can train in country but others, including doctors, must train overseas.
Beglen Saeni-Garimae, the head of the kindie program (ages 3 to 6) said it was hard for her to do continuing studies in Early Childhood Education.
Every two weeks Beglen attends a satellite link class through the University of the South Pacific, Fiji. Between classes she has infrequent Internet access so she supplements her education in other ways: an English friend mails her the latest literature.
Beglen and others in ACOM schools are on the front line of the second mark of Mission: “To teach, baptize, and nurture new believers.” It can be an uphill climb but a necessary one given the legions of young Anglicans we seem to be finding everywhere in the Solomons—dancing, singing, and asking deep questions.