Can you imagine a school without books?

If you don’t have books, if there’s a teacher with nothing more than a blackboard and a piece of chalk – you learn through rote. You repeat what the teacher says. You study the board. You memorize.

But thinking skills to evaluate information and to discern truth don’t develop very well.

It’s why the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur are pushing further into Africa, and working so hard there. We build and staff schools, and supply them the best we can, including with clean water.

But we’re doing something else, too. Working with the Jesuits we invite African Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur to this country. We house them, become family to them and share our talents as these young women pursue a Jesuit education. With this education, they learn to be some of the best teachers anywhere. And importantly, they overcome the decades of rote-style learning – and rote-style teaching – that by necessity was for so long the only kind of instruction possible.

We are teaching the teachers, just as Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur arriving from Europe taught our very first Sisters here.

It’s something we’ve done for 15 years with Sisters from Africa, with the latest Sister, Sister Jacinta Ojilimmobe, having just returned to her native Nigeria.

Sister Jacinta Ojilimmobe on her graduation day.

Sister Jacinta lived with us at Mount Notre Dame. She pursued and obtained her degree in education at Xavier University, one of the best universities in the country, and one outfitted with the latest technology. Sister Jacinta knows now the power of this technology. Yet when asked what most she needs in her Nigerian school, she immediately says books. Just books. What we might think of as old-fashioned, she regards as gold. Just books. Books that can free students from rote learning, that can’t be altered with a mouse click, and that don’t peddle in Internet disinformation.

As you’re reading this, our nation’s children are returning to school. With the pandemic, it’s an uncertain time. But once the pandemic is at last tamed we’ll fully resume classrooms of enlightenment, shared perspectives, and the tangible excitement of minds opening up to the wonders of this world.

It’s what we want for the children of Africa as well. Books are a start.

A gift will make these books possible. As you are able, we hope you will help.