By Demetria Banda
The Pastoral Commission and the Pontifical Missionary Society (PMS) of the Episcopal Conference of Malawi say they are receiving positive feedback from parents and children across the country as Luntha Television and other Catholic Radio Stations fill children and youth catechism class gap.
National Pastoral Coordinator, Fr Henry Chinkanda disclosed this in an interview, after a year-long adoption of the broadcast catechism teaching which is called “Learn your faith and win”, in response to the Covid-19 pandemic which disrupted physical teaching of children and young people in their respective parishes.
Following the Malawi government directive that restricted public gatherings as a measure to prevent further spread of the pandemic, the Catholic Church in the country suspended the teaching of catechism to children and the youth.
Despite children and the youth missing physical contact with their catechism teachers, the curriculum has not been fully disrupted following the coming in of teaching programmes of Catechism through Luntha Television and other catholic media houses like Radio Maria Malawi, Radio Alinafe, Radio Tigabane, Radio Tuntufye and Kuwala Radio. The children and the youth are still learning about their faith so that amidst Covid 19, they grow in their faith and live with love and hope.
Fr. Chinkanda said they have been receiving positive feedback from parents across the country commending the initiative through the office of Pontifical Mission Societies.
“Last year’s reports indicate that, the majority of people especially children and the youth are reacting positively to the initiative to the extent that some children contributed money and requested their parents to support their fellow needy children,” said Fr. Chinkanda.
He however said there are challenges being faced in the initiative, saying lack of access to cell phones, television sets or radio receivers for some children from rural areas, block their participation in the lessons.
Fr. Chinkanda added that PMS office that has been supporting the programmes is facing financial challenges given the need for money to conduct such programs.
“These programs are facing a lot challenges in terms of funding because due to lack of donors who support us since the Covid -19 pandemic has affected a lot of people in the country. You know to broadcast the programmes on Radio and TV, we need money to pay to the institutions and to buy airtime to stream the programmes live on TV, Radio and Facebook. Said Fr, Chinkanda.
One of the teachers who offer broadcast lessons to children, Patricia Kanyumbu concurred with Fr Chinkanda saying children are responding well to the programmes.
“So far, most of the children and the youth are able to catch the lessons live on Luntha TV and through radios like Radio Maria Malawi and Radio Alinafe on Saturdays from 8am to 10 am in both English and Chichewa languages as well as participating in children’s and youth quiz on Luntha TV on Sunday from 13:30 -15:30 in the afternoon. The response from children is very high with many expectations, as they give feedback through the phone-in component attached to the lessons. Children are able to ask for clarifications, make comments and ask questions where they didn’t understand,” Kanyumbu said.
“This is an indication that the children certainly follow the programmes and we as teachers are able to have a missionary contact with them through the media despite the Covid-19 restrictions,” she added.
Noel Chibenje who is also a Catechism head teacher and coordinates the Catechism lessons on Luntha TV and Catholic Radios said despite making progress in the formation of faith in children and the youth, some teachers fail to attend lessons sometimes due to financial challenges.
“Most of the teachers are the youths who are not working and rely mostly on their parents to help them with transport to get to the studios to teach. This sometimes becomes a problem which reads to their failure to attend the lessons,” Chimbenje said.
Chimbenje also complained that there are very few people who are helping to fund the programmes and has since called upon well-wishers for help.
“We are pleading to everyone to understand that the programmes are helping a lot of children and the youth, as well as elders. We, therefore, request well-wishers to support with anything they can, to sustain the programmes and to buy teaching materials,” added Chimbenje.
He also expressed gratitude to local well-wishers who are supporting the programmes to continue doing so for God blesses the hand that giveth.
With the quiz component of the initiative, some children and the youth who give correct answers, accumulate points and win prices.